New Jersey man facing ten years in prison for possession of 300 yr old flintlock pistol

Paging Governor Chris Christie. Please pick up the white courtesy phone.

There’s trouble brewing in New Jersey, as reported by our Townhall colleague Matt Vespa. 72 year old retired teacher Gordon VanGilder was arrested and now faces trial on weapons possession charges. That’s a sad, but not terribly unusual story in the Garden State which remains fairly unfriendly to Second Amendment rights. What gives this story a seriously tragic twist is that the weapon VanGilder was “caught” with is nearly 300 years. old.

A Cumberland County Sheriff’s Deputy pulled over Gordon for a traffic violation, but wanted to search his car. Upon discovering a flintlock pistol in the glove compartment, VanGilder said that another deputy wanted to let him go since he knew the firearm was an antique. The Sheriff disagreed. VanGilder was arrested the following morning, and faces up to ten years in prison; three and a half to five years of that sentence must be served before parole can be considered.

To make things more absurd, the prosecutor in the case told VanGilder’s lawyer­–Evan Nappen–who’s in the video; that ballistics test will be run on the firearm.

This case will impact Gordon’s pension as a New Jersey educator, his ability to vote, and his reputation. He will be a convicted felon if the State of New Jersey is successful in their crusade against him.

It is not a violation of federal law to own such a collectible antique, but in New Jersey that’s not the case. In fact, their handgun statute specifically includes “antique firearms” on the list of prohibited items. Living in the 21st century that’s not just curious… it’s obscene. The video report below includes a demonstration by a firearms expert on how much effort it takes to load this flintlock and prepare it to fire. If you’re in a shootout against the cops, you’d better hope that they are all in a coma because you need to unscrew and remove the barrel to reload it.

The extra level of crazy in this story is the fact that the sheriff is saying that they will have to conduct a ballistics test on the weapon. (Are they trying to solve some cold cases from the 1700s?) Unfortunately, ballistics relies on a bullet retaining the marks imprinted on it by the rifling in the weapon barrel. These flintlocks are smooth bore and there won’t be much information forthcoming from the test, assuming they can find somebody qualified to load and fire it.

The outright stupidity of this case is no assurance that it will simply be dismissed when a judge is presented with the facts. In the more crazy, anti-gun sections of the country, stranger things than Mr. Gordon going to prison have happened. But there may be a faster and better solution to the problem. Let’s imagine for a moment that a governor of a blue state who is having a lot of trouble with the conservative base was interested in running for the presidency. Let’s further imagine that he could use a quick shot in the arm to bolster his conservative credentials. A possible scenario comes to mind, no?

Governor Christie should step up to the plate and announce that he will issue a full pardon to Gordon if he is convicted. To be sure, he should wait until the trial takes place (assuming it isn’t dismissed in advance) because this will highlight the arcane, ridiculous nature of these gun laws and how they can negatively affect law abiding citizens. It could also add some impetus to the gun rights movement in the Garden State. But if Mr. Gordon is convicted and given what could turn out to be a life sentence at his age, he should know that the Governor is in his corner and that he won’t serve a day in prison. And even if it never comes to that, it would do Christie some good just to make the offer.

You’ll want to watch this video report from NRA News on the story. The mind doth boggle.

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