In Lakeland, New Jersey, a 9-year-old student allegedly brought a loaded .22-caliber handgun onto a school bus headed to Oak Street School. During the bus ride, the 9-year-old reportedly transferred the gun to the backpack of a 10-year-old fifth grader, who can be seen removing the bullets on surveillance footage obtained by the media. A third student reportedly alerted school security about the gun, and both students were subsequently apprehended. The two students now face criminal weapons charges.
The father of the 10-year-old student who removed the bullets said that his son explained to him that he was trying to be a hero after the other boy made a threat to use the weapon. The child reportedly told his father, “Daddy, I’m sorry, you know. I got scared when the kid told me he was going to shoot the kid, that’s why I took all the bullets out — I was not playing with the gun.” The father further reported that the only thing his son did wrong was not report the gun to the bus driver immediately. “I know my son knows right from wrong but they’re kids, they made a mistake,” the father told media outlets. “They make mistakes but they’re not the type who is going to go shoot up schools like the rest of these kids.”
The two students face criminal charges for unlawful possession of a weapon, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, and possession of a weapon on school grounds, according to Lt. Greg Staffordsmith of the Lakewood Police Department. Police have not released details about the gun’s origins and have not confirmed if the gun was loaded when the student brought it onto the bus. Early media reports indicated that the two boys were seen on video loading the gun, but the 10-year-old’s father claimed that his son was trying to disarm the other student.
Lakewood Public Schools sent out an alert to parents informing them of the incident. Superintendent Laura Winters said in a statement that the district purchased metal detectors and handmade metal wands to be placed in each of the elementary schools. (The middle school and high school already have metal detectors in place.) The devices are expected to be positioned in the grammar schools on Monday, June 18, 2018. The district will also add a clear bag mandate, making see-through backpacks part of the uniform for elementary school students in July. Additionally, since the incident, several other schools throughout Ocean County have reportedly inquired about adding metal detectors.
Under New Jersey’s Unlawful Possession of a Weapon statute, an individual can be found guilty of a criminal offense for several reasons. According to the statute, any person who knowingly has in his possession any handgun, including any antique handgun, without first having obtained a permit to carry the same is guilty of a crime of the second degree. Also, if any person knowingly possesses an air gun, spring gun, or pistol or other weapon of a similar nature in which the propelling force is a spring, elastic band, carbon dioxide, compressed or other gas or vapor, air or compressed air, or is ignited by compressed air, and ejecting a bullet or missile smaller than three-eighths of an inch in diameter, with sufficient force to injure a person, he is guilty of a crime of the third degree.
Furthermore, it is unlawful to possess a firearm within a school zone. Our laws provide that any person who knowingly has in his possession any firearm in or upon any part of the buildings or grounds of any school, college, university, or other educational institution, without the written authorization of the governing officer of the institution, is guilty of a crime of the third degree, irrespective of whether he possesses a valid permit to carry the firearm or a valid firearms purchaser identification card. On top of that, any person who knowingly possesses any weapon similar to a knife, stun gun, or any components which can readily be assembled into a firearm, knife, or stun gun, or any other weapon under circumstances not manifestly appropriate for such lawful use as it may have, while in or upon any part of the buildings or grounds of any school, college, university, or other educational institution without the written authorization of the governing officer of the institution, is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree. Lastly, any person who knowingly has in his possession any imitation firearm in or upon any part of the buildings or grounds of any school, college, university, or other educational institution, without the written authorization of the governing officer of the institution, or while on any school bus, is guilty of a disorderly person offense, irrespective of whether he possesses a valid permit to carry a firearm or a valid firearms purchaser identification card.
Second degree offenses carry a potential prison sentence of between 5 and 10 years. Third degree offenses carry a possible prison term of between 3 and 5 years. Fourth degree charges subject a person to a possible sentence of up to 1 1/2 years in jail. Lastly, disorderly person offenses carry a potential jail term of up to 6 months.
Accordingly, if you or someone you know is facing criminal charges for a weapons offense in New Jersey, please contact our office. Experienced New Jersey gun crime lawyer Travis Tormey can help you fight your charges and stay out of jail.