Air Rifle Sniper: Cops Still Charging for Non-Crime of Air Rifle Possession

Categories: Crime, Law & Order
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Joe Eskenazi
Oh, the things you see in the Tenderloin. 

Among the more G-rated misdeeds to make the news of late was 20-year-old Ricardo Songalia allegedly sniping out the window in the 300 block of Turk with an air rifle. That's still illegal, and he was charged with a bevy of crimes. 

He was charged with one count, however, that's emphatically not a crime. SF Weekly has written quite a bit about how cops continue to charge those in possession of air- and paintball guns for violating a Truman-era city ordinance -- despite the fact that ordinance has been superseded by state law for decades. 

As your humble narrator put it in a column late last month: 

Legal petitions are rarely laugh-out-loud funny, but the public defender's office managed that feat in a 1987 document arguing its client did no wrong in possessing a Marksman pellet gun. Attempting to apply the city's paintball- and BB-gun ban under the state law clearly preempting it would require "the ridiculous interpretation that the Legislature intended to allow a city to prohibit its adults from possessing air guns, but permit its children to own them with their parents' permission." That's a hilarious line; no wonder the public defender repeated it verbatim in a 2004 filing, one of several sent our way by the office. Less entertaining is that these charges are still coming up all these years later, and wasting everyone's time.

So, once again, expect the air rifle possession charge against Songalia to be tossed (he's still on the hook for assault with a weapon other than a firearm and resisting arrest). That's what happened to the quartet of gentlemen accused in June of a series of paintball attacks. 

Our messages to the District Attorney's office have not yet been returned. We'll update you when we hear back. And the next time the police charge someone for this non-crime. 

Update, 2:59 p.m.: District Attorney spokesman Alex Bastian says Songalia is in custody and will be arraigned Friday on a felony charge of assault with a deadly weapon and a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest. 

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