More Garden State Gun Insanity

A couple of years ago, we talked about Brian Aitken, the man who was convicted of violating New Jersey gun laws because he had guns in his car while he was moving. He was released from prison by Christie and his convictions were eventually thrown out (in part because the judge gave poor instructions to the jury; proper instructions might have resulted in acquittal).

Then it was Shaneen Allen, who faced felony charges for having a registered gun in her car while driving through New Jersey. After enormous public pressure, the prosecutor relented and let her go into a diversion program for first-time offenders.

These things keep happening because New Jersey’s gun laws are insanely complicated and ignore any idea of mens rea:

Carrying a firearm in a locked container in checked luggage in an airport terminal to declare it to the airline constitutes unlawful possession and is not protected under the law.

This decision was a direct result of a 2005 incident where Gregg C. Revell, a Utah Resident with a valid Utah Concealed Firearm Permit was traveling through Newark Airport en route to Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Because of a missed flight, he was given his luggage, which included a properly checked firearm, and was forced to spend the night in a hotel in New Jersey. When he returned to the airport the following day to check his handgun for the last portion of the trip, he was arrested for illegal possession of a firearm.

Revell lost his lawsuit after The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held in Gregg C. Revell v. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, [222] held that “Section 926A does not apply to Revell because his firearm and ammunition were readily accessible to him during his stay in New Jersey.”

This opinion will apply to NJ airports. If you miss a flight or for any other reason your flight is interrupted and the airline tries to return you luggage that includes a checked firearm, you cannot take possession of the firearm if you are taking a later flight.

Well, meet the latest victim:

Gordon Van Gilder is a retired New Jersey school teacher and collector of 18th century memorabilia. That innocuous hobby could land the 72-year-old behind bars for the rest of his life.

Van Gilder owns an unloaded antique 225-year-old flintlock pistol, the possession of which carries a potential 10-year prison sentence and mandatory minimum sentence of three to five-and-a-half years with no chance for parole.

When a Cumberland County sheriff’s deputy pulled over Van Gilder last November for a minor traffic violation, Van Gilder—after consenting to a search—volunteered the information that the unloaded pistol was in his glove box. The next morning, according to Van Gilder’s account in a video posted by the National Rifle Association (NRA), four officers showed up at his home with a warrant for his arrest.

New Jersey’s strict gun laws explicitly include antique firearms, despite the fact that federal laws exempt them from most gun control regulations.

The local cops are doing ballistics tests on the flintlock just in case Van Gilder used it to commit the world’s slowest robbery or something.

Most federal gun laws exempt weapons made before 1898. The reason is that antique firearms are usually the province of collectors and historians. When was the last time you heard of someone holding up a liquor store with a musket?

There’s no question that Van Gilder broke the law. But there’s little question in my mind that the law is an ass. A Republican state legislator has introduced a bill to exempt antique weapons from New Jersey’s gun laws, but that won’t stop this prosecution. Even if he pleads out, a conviction could jeopardize his pension. I don’t know the ins and outs of New Jersey law, but if Van Gilder is eligible for the diversion program, he should absolutely get it.

This is an inevitable consequence of overly broad gun control laws. They are passed in the wake of some awful act of violence and wind up snaring law-abiding people who pose no danger whatsoever. And any opposition is written off as the result of NRA mischief.

Comments are closed.

  1. Thrill

    I honestly cannot imagine living in a blue state as a gun owner. Crazy as it sounds, I see places like NJ as being as free and incorruptible as Venezuela. No thank you.

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  2. FPrefect89

    Thrill, I live in a blue state, Oregon. Fortunately there are not very many restrictions on ownership in this state yet. I just got my 2nd suppressor, after almost 10 months, and most of the state is open carry with no permit.

    The last few times a gun control issue came up, most of the representatives in the states government were quite busy fielding calls from people like me asking what kind of criminal will obey the laws they were trying to pass. Needless to say, not too many gun control laws have been passed lately.

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  3. TxAg94

    My guess is that the man’s antique gun will be “accidentally lost” somewhere along the way.  Cops have a nasty habit of transferring possession of nice guns to themselves or their friends.


    Is this a new comment dialog box format??

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  4. Thrill

    Ah, you’re right, FPrefect.  I shouldn’t say “blue states” exactly.  Outside of the big cities, many blue states are perfectly sensible.  NJ and some of the others are utterly ridiculous though.

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  5. InsipiD

    My guess is that the man’s antique gun will be “accidentally lost” somewhere along the way.  Cops have a nasty habit of transferring possession of nice guns to themselves or their friends

    Or just simply ruin it.  There are departments who try very hard to make sure that a usable firearm is never returned to a citizen, no matter why it was initially taken.


    It sounds as though NJ has managed to make several laws that are actually impossible for someone to follow, and no legal recognition of these cases placing people unwittingly in situations where they “broke” the law.  The rest of us all know that New Jersey is pretty disgusting anyway.  SNL’s lampooning of David Patterson as NY governor summed up my thoughts on NJ pretty well.

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  6. Christopher

    Incidents like this make it all the harder to take gun grabbers seriously when they claim that they don’t want to ban all guns.  One of their canards is that the Second Amendment only covers muskets, and here we have a guy with no malicious intent in possession of a flintlock pistol (in other words, a short-barreled musket) looking at ten years and I have yet to hear on peep out of them over this.  Even if they don’t want to admit to the blatant stupidity of this law, they could at least make themselves look more respectable and reasonable by publicly saying that he should not be prosecuted and maybe even go the extra mile by providing him with a good defense team (I’m referring specifically to gun control organizations like the CSGV or the Brady Campaign).  Granted, there’s still time for them to comment on this, but I doubt that they will.  After all, very few (if any) gun control supporters commented on things like Shaneen Allen or Brian Aitken or the murders of Tamir Rice or Kelly Thomas.

    Hell, their lack of criticism for New York’s misnamed SAFE Act shows how little they care about how strict the laws are.  I’ve heard many different numbers for magazine capacity limits such as fifteen, ten (most commonly) and the SAFE Act went with seven, even though most guns don’t have seven-round magazines, and no gun control advocates came out and said “No, a seven-round limit is too strict, ten will work just fine.”  Not only that, I have yet to hear any of them cite a source explaining how they arrived at that number, let alone a scientific study.

    One more thing about what I said about the Second Amendment and muskets: The people who claim that the Second Amendment only covers muskets are often the same people who argue that the Second Amendment refers to a collective militia right.  While I have yet to hear both of these arguments used right in a row, it shows how little attention that they pay to their own arguments.  If you were to take these two together, then that means that they’re saying that the “militia” (the police and the military) should only be armed with muskets.

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