Should crimes committed with BB guns carry the same penalty as crimes committed with real guns?
“Crimes, like armed robbery with BB guns, should carry a stiff penalty. It depends on the severity of damage done as well. Should they penalties be as stiff as those committed with real guns? In a crowded prison system, I say, ‘No.’” -RightToolForTheJob
“BB guns should be controlled more than they are. It is not right that just anyone can purchase one. Rather than focus on penalties for crimes, we need to consider limiting access to BB guns and pellet guns.” -LeftExposure
Boston Herald – The Supreme Judicial Court tomorrow will take up the issue of whether a robbery with a BB gun should carry the same penalty as crimes committed with real guns, reviewing the hefty prison sentence of a Pittsfield man convicted of armed robbery in 2012.
Raheem B. Garrett was sentenced to up to 15 years in prison in November 2012 after a jury found him guilty of three counts of armed robbery. Prosecutors said he was wielding a BB gun.
Garrett’s lawyer, Michael J. Hickson, could not be reached for comment yesterday, but wrote in legal documents that Garrett should not have been convicted because the gun he was armed with was not real.
“The defendant must be found not guilty of robbery while masked and armed with a ‘handgun’ because the evidence the Commonwealth presented at trial proved that the defendant was not armed with a ‘firearm,’ as a matter of law,” Hickson wrote.
Appellate court filings by Hickson also argued the judge presiding over the case erroneously expanded the definition of firearm, creating a “miscarriage of justice.” Garrett’s trial lawyer did not object to the judge’s definition of firearm, Hickson wrote.
Constitutional lawyer Chester Darling said Hickson has a point.
“There’s nothing dangerous about a BB gun,” Darling said. “It gives the appearance of being dangerous and it puts the person in fear of seeing it. But that’s still not a dangerous weapon.”
Civil liberties lawyer Harvey Silverglate said Garrett’s case raises “substantial” legal questions, and the decision could hinge on whether the high court justices focus on the effect the BB gun had on Garrett’s victims, who reportedly believed it was real, or the fact that it was just a relatively harmless BB gun.
But Silverglate added, “I would be willing to bet that this would ultimately be declared an armed robbery and the conviction will be upheld.”
Garrett, 30, was found not guilty on several other charges related to robberies or attempted robberies in Pittsfield. According to appellate filings by Hickson, Garrett was convicted of robbing a pizza franchise twice on separate dates and a convenience store. His then-girlfriend and co-defendant, Laura Methe, testified against him. Court documents said she bought a “BB gun pistol” at a sporting goods store.