A little overenthusiasm on the part of New Jersey’s State Legislature in drafting one more anti-gang measure may send a harmless 20-year-old sales clerk to jail for three years for BB-gun possession.
Caught speeding in Highland Park in April in his father’s Acura RSX, Ryan Narciso found out the hard way about a recent change in a New Jersey gun law that could send him to prison for three years.
The 20-year-old sales clerk at a shop at Menlo Park Mall and former Middlesex County College student had a pellet handgun in the car, according to an indictment filed last week in Superior Court, New Brunswick. …
Narciso’s father, an architect, bought the pellet gun at a garage sale a few years ago to fend off squirrels that made their way into the attic of the families home on Mount Pleasant Avenue in Edison, the father and Narciso’s lawyer, Amilcar Perez of Perth Amboy, said.
Under a new state law, Narciso’s possession of the weapon qualifies as a Graves Act offense. Narciso could face what prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys call a “hard three,” meaning three years with no prospect of parole.
But a state official Wednesday acknowledged that the draconian measure made its way into law by mistake.
The Graves Act, adopted in 1981 and named after Frank X. Graves Jr., the late state senator and law-and-order mayor of Paterson known for patroling the city, outlined mandatory-minimum prison sentences for anyone guilty of using a gun in the commission of a crime in New Jersey. A burglar caught with a handgun, for instance, faced a solid three years behind bars for the gun crime alone.
With little or no fanfare, lawmakers stiffened the Graves Act in the last session. They folded the amendment into anti-gang legislation that Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed into law in January.
Now, the simple unlawful possession of any firearm can bring mandatory penalties for anyone who pleads guilty to or is convicted of that crime alone.