Tag: Gun law

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.

A Gun-Grabbing Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Congress is slowly moving toward resolution of the gun control proposal. It’s fairly watered down, with the biggest thing being an expansion of the background checks. However, that in and of itself may be a problem. As pointed out in this extensive post from Doug Mataconis, there are big problems with just saying that those with mental illness should not get guns.

Ever since Newtown, there has been discussion about expanding the database used to conduct background checks to include people who have been deemed mentally unstable. The problem with this is that there are only two ways for someone to get on this type of list. Either they would have had to have had some kind of contact with the criminal justice system, or there condition would have to have been reported by a therapist that is treating them. The second alternative, of course, raises serious issues of doctor/patient confidentiality. Currently, therapists generally have a legal duty to make some kind of report if they know a patient is a danger to themselves or others, but the line of when that’s the case is hard to define, and the more common it becomes for therapists to report their patients to the state, the less likely that people are going to be to seek the treatment they need.

There are other concerns, which Doug gets into a second post, about what exactly constitutes “mentally unstable”. There is no agreement within the medical community of what exactly makes someone a danger to himself and others. It’s a judgement call. But, as we have seen many many times, the law is not comfortable with judgement calls. It prefers bright lines. And given the liability and danger, it is likely they will try to draw that line as far into our gun racks as possible.

Keep in mind this as well: next month the DSM-V will be released with new diagnoses. According to some, this could result in half of Americans being diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their lives. Hell, I could be flagged under this since I took prozac (briefly) in the 80’s. Should I be denied gun ownership for the rest of my life because of that?

Oh, I’m being hysterical, am I? Check this out. Following the passage of the SAFE Act in New York, a man named David Lewis was ordered to turn over his guns. The reason? Well, it’s not exactly clear. He claims that it was because he took some anti-anxiety medication at some point. The state is now claiming it was a clerical error and that they identified the wrong David Lewis. State lawmakers are now demanding answers for what happened.

Let the full weight of that sink in. A man’s guns were taken either because the police weren’t sure which David Lewis was dangerous or because they were scouring medical records looking for potential red flags. And, of course, this seizure was enabled by a state gun registry.

But surely, the federal law does not create these kind of concerns because … oh, crap:

The Toomey-Manchin Amendment which may be offered as soon as Tuesday to Senator Reid’s gun control bill are billed as a “compromise” which contain a variety of provisions for gun control, and other provisions to enhance gun rights. Some of the latter, however, are not what they seem. They are badly miswritten, and are in fact major advancements for gun control. In particular:

1. The provision which claims to outlaw national gun registration in fact authorizes a national gun registry.

2. The provision which is supposed to strengthen existing federal law protecting the interstate transportation of personal firearms in fact cripples that protection.

You should read the whole thing, which is awfully persuasive. We now have a bill that could create the David Lewis situation nationally. As I’ve said, I don’t oppose tightening up background checks. But I’m not going to support this. And, frankly, I dont think I can support any legislation crafted by that gun-grabbing weasel Chuck Schumer (I will also be placing a call to my Senator’s office).

We can now see why the Democrats were in such a rush to pass legislation after Newtown and why pro-Second Amendment Congressmen were right to stall and delay. Under the guise of fixing our gun laws, they are expanding them beyond anything reasonable. If they get their way, we will have a national gun registry, we will lose protection for transport of guns and any mental health incident in your lifetime could be used as an excuse to, if not seize your guns, at least deny future purchases.

Back to the drawing board, guys.