CRITICS COMPLAIN THAT JAZZ SINGER and actor Harry Connick Jr. has made a career of aping Frank Sinatra. Everything from the Bryl-creamed hair to the loose-limbed gestures to the soft crooning of '40s and '50s classics seems lifted from the Sinatra stylebook. Connick, 25, could even boast a sultry girlfriend, Victoria's Secret model Jill Goodacre, 27. About the only thing missing was a brush with the law.

With his arrest two days after Christmas for carrying a gun at New York City's John F. Kennedy Airport, Connick made some headway on that score as well. According to police, Connick was about to go through a metal detector on his way to catching a flight to his hometown of New Orleans when he informed security personnel that he had a gun in his carry-on bag. He mentioned that the 9-mm pistol, which was unloaded, had been a gift from his sister.

Connick later vaguely explained to his agent, Fran Curtis, that he had failed to obtain a firearms declaration beforehand because of "confusion surrounding the transportation" of his puppy, who was also en route to New Orleans. The real problem, though, was that he had no New York State license for the gun. Placed under arrest and taken to the Queens County lockup overnight, Connick, whose father, Harry Sr., is the district attorney in New Orleans, remained polite and unruffled. "He was very cooperative," says police spokesperson Gwen Williams. By one account, he dined on potato chips and ice cream brought in by his lawyer and signed autographs for his cell mates.

After pleading not guilty the next day to a misdemeanor charge of illegal possession of an unlicensed handgun, Connick was released on his own recognizance. If convicted, he faces up to one year in jail and a fine of $1,000. Given the circumstances, though, it seems unlikely that Connick will soon be singing the prison blues.