When a 72-year-old retired school teacher faces a 10 year felony sentence (a likely life sentence) for possession of an unloaded 18th century flintlock pistol, one knows immediately that we can only be talking about a handful of states in which such a travesty can happen.  In this case, not surprisingly, it’s the “Garden State” of New Jersey. (h/t Sebastian over at the Shall Not Be Questioned blog.)

Gordon Van Gilder, who taught in the New Jersey school system for 34 years, is a collector of 18th century memorabilia.  He acquired a genuine antique flintlock pistol from that era, and had it unloaded and wrapped in a cloth in his glove compartment when he was pulled over for an alleged minor traffic violation.

Van Gilder consented to a requested search of his vehicle, and when asked by the officer if there was anything in the car the officer should be worried about, Van Gilder informed him about the flintlock in the glove box.  Although not arrested that day, the next morning several patrol cars woke him at his home and placed him under arrest.

New Jersey’s draconian gun laws explicitly include antique firearms such as this 300-year-old pistol.  Indeed, possession of a slingshot is a felony under New Jersey law.

Van Gilder is represented by Evan Nappen, a well-known attorney specializing in gun law cases, and thus is as well-represented as could be hoped for in this case.  It was Nappen who successfully represented Philadelphia nurse Shaneen Allen when she was charged with unlawful possession of her PA-licensed handgun in New Jersey. The mother of two small children was ultimately permitted to enter pre-trial intervention rather than be subject to trial and New Jersey’s mandatory minimum sentence of 3 1/2 to 5 years imprisonment.  That outcome, however, took direct intervention by the state Attorney General, likely at the prodding of the presidential-aspirant Governor Chris Christie.

(We covered the Allen story here PA Nurse Arrested on Gun Charges Given Reprieve and here The Memo that let Shaneen Allen — and Chris Christie’s political future — off the hook.)

Van Gilder will be fortunate indeed if Nappen can win him a similar arrangement. Even a plea agreement that avoids jail time but convicts Van Gilder of a felony would likely jeopardize the teacher’s pension he spent 34 years earning.

As Van Gilder states in the video above–“Avoid New Jersey. Don’t come here.”  And as Nappen notes, twice as many families are currently leaving New Jersey as are arriving in the state. New Jersey’s population loss relative to other states is also evident in its loss of a House seat following the 2010 census.  Other northeastern extremist gun control states have similarly lost House seats in recent years, with New York losing two seats and Massachusetts losing one seat.

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

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Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog (autographed copies available) and Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle). He also holds Law of Self Defense Seminars around the country, and provides free online self-defense law video lectures at the Law of Self Defense Institute and podcasts through iTunes, Stitcher, and elsewhere.