The Morristown Patch recently reported on a police involved shooting in New Jersey, but with an incredibly misleading headline that screams “Police Shot, Killed Morris Twp. Man With BB Gun: Attorney General.”

In the article it is explained a person called 911, describing a man, 24-year-old Timothy O’Shea bleeding from a self inflicted cut who was brandishing a pistol. The police came on the scene and as reported by The Patch:

“…at approximately 4:19 p.m., officers encountered O’Shea, who was holding a pistol and bleeding, authorities said. During the encounter, one officer fired his weapon, striking O’Shea, authorities said.

Officers rendered medical aid until EMS arrived and transported O’Shea to Morristown Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 5:41 p.m., authorities said.

The pistol that was in his hand was recovered at the scene and determined to be a replica Beretta 9mm Airsoft pistol.”

Any police involved shooting is a tragic event and troubling, especially when the loss of life is involved. The full details of this incident are still under investigation, however based on the article it can be speculated there was some sort of domestic and or psychiatric event unfolding with Mr. O’Shea.  Those details are still pending.

What is also troubling is the headline touting the weapon used was a BB gun.  An airsoft gun is not a BB gun. Granted, they are both toys which potentially can be dangerous, but toys none the less. What makes this particularly bothersome, is that in the state of New Jersey, BB and pellet guns aren’t viewed as toys at all. In fact, they’re regulated as actual firearms, while airsoft guns are not.  This is not splitting hairs in a state like New Jersey.

In order to purchase a BB gun in the state of New Jersey, if it’s a rifle, one must first obtain a Firearms ID Card (FID). To get an FID, applicants need to submit to a criminal background check, get finger printed, obtain two character references, and then there may be issuance. With that FID, an individual can go to a Federally Licensed Firearms dealer, submit to another background check, in the form of a NICS, and then go home with their Red Ryder.

Buying a BB pistol? They are regulated as a handgun in the state of New Jersey, requiring a Pistol Purchasers Permit, background checks, the same process as an FID, but for EVERY pistol. Being treated as a gun by law, a BB pistol would need the bearer in the state of NJ to have a permit to carry in order to bear this “arm” in public on their person, or even in their car outside of exemption. Want to buy two BB pistols in NJ? You need two permits and two months, NJ only allowing residents to purchase one handgun a month.

These may seem like silly semantics, but they are not. The article implies an airsoft gun is a firearm, which they are not. Forget that in the entire rest of the US, both BB guns and airsoft guns are toys. Yes, toys that can inflict harm, but they’re not seen as firearms.

Is the Attorney General or the writer of this article trying to imply or insinuate that people subscribe to further hoplophobia? Subtly hinting that BB guns are super dangerous?  This clearly seems part of the continued agenda in New Jersey to push anti-gun views and policies.  It certainly reflects the hubris of NJ’s AG and general ignorance of anything firearms related with members of New Jersey’s press.

I reached out to the author, Russ Crespolini concerning this misleading headline. From that correspondence:

“…Just to note – an airsoft gun is a toy, not a BB gun.  Your classification of this is misleading because under NJ law, a BB gun is an actual gun, regulated under our firearm statutes and an airsoft gun is not.  A change to this headline should be made as it paints an inaccurate portrayal of the item in question.”
Crespolini has yet to reply.
John Petrolino is a US Merchant Marine Officer, writer, author of “Decoding Firearms: An Easy to Read Guide on General Gun Safety & Use” and NRA certified pistol, rifle and shotgun instructor living under and working to change New Jersey’s draconian and unconstitutional gun laws. You can find him on the web at www.johnpetrolino.com on twitter at @johnpetrolino and on instagram @jpetrolinoiii