A 50-year-old man from Richmond (name withheld for privacy) was taking a walk near the Wildcat Canyon Trail in Wildcat Canyon Regional Park when he was suddenly struck in the nose with a BB gun. Turning around, he noticed that a stocky, dark-haired teen was standing there with a gun; the teen quickly ran away and law enforcement agents were unable to find him. The Richmond man seems to have suffered a nosebleed due to the incident, but he was not seriously injured. Although this may seem like a minor incident, it has renewed interest in whether or not BB guns should be considered dangerous weapons, even deadly.
BB guns and other imitation guns have long been ‘under fire’ in California for quite some time. In August of 2014, Senate Bill 199 made it a misdemeanor to carry an imitation firearm in public, if it is not painted in several approved bright colors. California Penal Code 246.3 (“Negligent Discharge of a Firearm”) pertains to the discharge of many types of firearms, in particular, BB guns are included. The law dictates that any person who purposefully discharges a BB gun, or other firearm, in a manner that could be considered grossly negligent (meaning that someone could get hurt, seriously injured, or killed) may be charged with negligent discharge of a firearm.
However, you must have purposefully used the BB gun under circumstances in which you knew that you might cause great bodily injury or death. If caught and convicted, the teen involved in the Wildcat Canyon shooting may face severe penalties. CA PC 246.3 is a ‘wobbler’ in California; this means that prosecutors will be the ones to determine whether the crime is treated as a misdemeanor or as a felony. Felony conviction may mean 3 years in prison, whereas a misdemeanor conviction might end in 1 year in county.