Is a pellet (BB aka air rifle) gun a firearm in Pennsylvania; how about New Jersey?
Our criminal defense law firm represents individuals charged with crimes and offenses in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We frequently receive questions regarding guns and firearms. In addition, we also receive questions regarding what is and isn’t considered a firearm or gun in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Pellet Guns in Pennsylvania
A BB gun is a type of air gun designed to shoot metallic spherical projectiles. Airsoft guns (aka, BB, or pellet guns) are not considered firearms according to the Pennsylvania law. This means that you don’t need a permit to buy, own or carry and airsoft (BB) gun. In addition, you do not need to be 21-years of age or older to buy and airsoft gun, as you would need to purchase a real handgun in the Commonwealth. Airsoft guns are considered to be BB guns and you need to be at least 18 years of age to purchase this device by yourself.
While BB-guns are not considered weapons, they can be used to commit crimes in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. If, for example, you fire an airsoft weapon like a BB-gun or paint gun at someone who does not consent to such treatment, you could be committing an aggravated or simple assault. Further, if a person were to take an airsoft gun and use it to commit a crime, such as robbery, you could be charged with that robbery. A person is guilty of robbery if in the course of committing a theft he or she inflicts serious bodily injury upon another or threatens another with fear of immediate serious bodily injury. A robbery is an unlawful taken by force and the type of firearm or weapon used is irrelevant for the purposes of the charge under Title 18, Section 3701.
A person is guilty of a simple assault if he or she attempts to cause or causes bodily injury to another or negligently causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon such as a BB-gun. Simple assault is a misdemeanor of the second degree in most situations. An aggravated assault, however, is an attempt to cause or cause serious bodily injury intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly. Again, the type of weapon used in the alleged assault is relevant under Title 18 Section 2702. An aggravated assault unlike a simple assault is a felony crime in Pennsylvania. In addition to robbery and an aggravated assault charge, the person could also face possession of an instrument of crime, which is a misdemeanor in Pennsylvania (M1).
How are pellet guns sold in Pennsylvania?
Airsoft guns in Pennsylvania must be sold with an orange tip on the end of the barrel that marks the gun as an airsoft replica and not as an actual firearm. Airsoft (BB) guns are frequently used for recreation. They utilize compressed air to fire pellets. Pennsylvania’s airsoft gun laws prohibit the sale of an airsoft gun to anyone under the age of 18 and also prohibits a minor (under the age of 18) to carry this weapon on any public road, highway or public land, unless they are accompanied by an adult. If you are over the age of 18, you can carry these weapons. Airsoft guns are not toys. It should be treated with the same respect as an actual firearm.
New Jersey & BB Guns – Are they legal in New Jersey?
Unlike Pennsylvania, New Jersey considers BB-guns and airsoft guns restricted firearms. You must have a permit for these weapons if they are outside of your home; just like a real handgun or firearm in the Garden State. Under New Jersey’s Graves Act, firearms are considered very serious and require mandatory prison sentences; these are indictable crimes in New Jersey. BB-guns, however, aren’t treated the same as actual firearms in the State and so prosecutors now have more discretion in dealing with these types of weapons. Frequently, a person who is found in possession of a BB-gun or an airsoft gun in New Jersey is eligible for Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) or even to have it downgraded back to Municipal Court.
Under NJSA 2C: 39-5, BB-guns and other airsoft weapons like pellet guns and air guns are classified as firearms that are illegal to possess in New Jersey just like a handgun, rifle or shotgun unless a person is properly licensed. In New Jersey a firearm is defined by any gun device from which a solid projectile like a pellet, bullet, or ball may be launched by cartridge, shell, or explosive material. Under NJSA 2C: 39-1 (f) this includes air guns, spring guns, pistols or gas or air ejection devices. New Jersey classifies the illegal possession of air gun or rifle as a crime of the 3rd degree under its Graves Act (2C:39-5).
How can you lawfully obtain and transport a BB or pellet gun in New Jersey
In New Jersey you are required to obtain a permit to carry a BB-gun just as if it was an actual pistol or handgun. Once you get a permit, you must carry the gun securely in a lock box or gun lock box in the trunk of your car. The ammunition must be kept separate. If you fail to comply with the rules and laws pertaining to BB-guns, you can and will be charged with a third-degree indictable crime for possessing a BB-gun unlawfully in New Jersey.
New Jersey treats guns and firearms very different from Pennsylvania and this includes BB-guns and airsoft guns. If you are a resident of Pennsylvania, do not take your BB-gun into New Jersey as you can and will be charged with that illegal possession once you cross the bridge into the Garden State.
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