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VIDEO: Retired Teacher Faces 10 Years for Flintlock Possession

VIDEO: Retired Teacher Faces 10 Years for Flintlock Possession

Welcome to New Jersey

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

NEW! The Law of Self Defense proudly announces the launch of it’s online, on-demand state-specific Law of Self Defense Online Training.  These are interactive, online versions of the authoritative 5-hour-long state-specific Law of Self Defense Seminars that we give all over the country, but from the convenience of your laptop, tablet, or smartphone, and on your own schedule.  Click over for more information on our state-specific Law of Self Defense Online Training, and get access to the ~30 minute Section 1. Introduction for free.

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 (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.


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Democrats: Anti-Gun, Anti-Family, Anti-Semitic.

    Spiny Norman in reply to MattMusson. | February 15, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    Anti- anything outside the direct control of the State.

    Democrats? This, the PA nurse and several other recent cases of firearm owners persecution have occurred during the Chris Christie governance.

      Greg Toombs in reply to MarkS. | February 15, 2015 at 1:47 pm

      This is a really ignorant and disappointing comment. NJ’s gun law was passed well before Chris Christie became governor. The NJ State Senators and Legislators are majority Democrat and have been for eons. Democrats passed the law, a Democrat governor signed it and there is zero chance current NJ legislators would pass a corrective law that provides either greater latitude in State 2nd Amendment rights or basic justice for people like Ms. Allen or Mr. Van Gilder.

        So we’re in agreement that Chris Christie is the governor of an extremist gun control state.

        Hey, nobody MADE him take that job. He ran and fought for it, and won it.

        In a nation that has seen gun rights vastly expanded in the last two decades–where even residents of Progressive strongholds like California and Chicago and Washington DC can now obtain gun permits–a governor from one of the handful of extremist gun control states left has no role in national politics.

        But don’t take my word for it–watch and see.

        –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

        Christie has signed no fewer than ten pieces of legislation that restrict or impair the free exercise of the second amendment, a feat doubtfully done prior to his taking office as Governor. And if we are to believe he is no more than a helpless observer of things politic in NJ because there are Democrats lurking about then he has no business running for president.

          teebonicus in reply to MarkS. | February 16, 2015 at 6:18 pm

          Using Christie to assign culpability for gun control in general to Republicans is one of the most disingenuous efforts I have yet read.

          New Jersey Republicans are nothing more than Democrat Lite, de facto.

          And gun control is the bastard child of the Democrat Party.

          Own it.

          MarkS in reply to MarkS. | February 19, 2015 at 6:13 am

          teebonicus-I’m assigning Chris Christie’s action to no one other than Chris Christie!
          PS- Is this what you call trolling?

        buckeyeminuteman in reply to Greg Toombs. | February 17, 2015 at 11:41 am

        He could choose not to enforce these laws, just like our federal executor of laws does…

As a wise old Marine Colonel explained to me when I was a cadet, the way you get ridiculous regulations changed is to enforce them.

    The Friendly Grizzly in reply to wukong. | February 15, 2015 at 8:37 pm

    That, or, obeying orders to the letter. See: the movie No Time For Sergeants (Andy Griffith, about 1955; I think there was a remake but don’t bother), or a story, “The Good Soldier Schweick” by author Sholom Aleichem.

As a NJ resident, I am plotting my own escape… I love the state (land), and many of the people. The government is horrendous. How about this definition of the 2nd?

WTF NJ?? You are a lost cause.

    I have family in both Princeton and Mannahawkin/Long Beach Island, visit often, and both are lovely parts of the state, geographically. The Delaware Water Gap area is also very pretty.

    But like California, lovely geography has been overcome my metastatic Progressivism.

    –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

      2A-phobic Massachusetts also is beautiful. That’s the only reason I can imagine that you live there.

      Well, that combined with my guess that you travel…A LOT.

        I live in MA because my progeny were born here and are still minors. When they reach maturity in ~2 years you’ll see smoke coming off my heels as I flee the Commonwealth.

        I only think about it a dozen or so times a day. 🙂

        –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

        Fiftycaltx in reply to Rab. | February 15, 2015 at 7:22 pm

        Well, I just moved to Marble Falls (1 hour west of Austin) in June of 2014 after 30+ years in Austin . I have a spare bedroom if you come this way. I retire in 29 working days and could give you a cooks tour of the area if my Suzuki 650 can keep up. PS, it’s been 75 degrees for the past 3 days.

          I rode a Wee-strom for years before I got my GSA, and I ride the GSA like an old man (appropriately enough). My track days are behind me. 🙂 The strom is a great bike, at a great price. Still wish I’d kept mind.

          Very much appreciate your offer of a place to rest my head, and intend to take you up on it. 🙂 Email me at seminar (at) lawofselfdefense (dot) com, and we can communicate directly.

          –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

      DevilsPrinciple in reply to Andrew Branca. | February 17, 2015 at 12:39 am

      The Delaware Water Gap is also shared by PA. A much more 2nd Amendment friendly state. And , all NJ cops consider ANY reason to pull you over a rationale to search your vehicle.

      I lived in NJ for ten years before it became the Socialist State of New Jersey. Now, it’s just creepy.

    We fled California for the same reasons. I love the state of California, miss it immensely, but I could no longer live under the rule of the leftists there. Flee while you can.

      JackRussellTerrierist in reply to JoAnne. | February 15, 2015 at 5:39 pm

      Ditto here. We left for the same reason. I lived there all my life, so the issues there didn’t affect me quite as much as it did my husband, who is from the Midwest. But, he is a teacher and was subjected to the horrors of school district thinking whereas I was not. I miss CA, too, for many reasons, such as the weather, food, arts, shopping and activities. And I miss my redwoods and Pacific greatly. It was a magnificent state for a long time and an economic powerhouse as well. But I would never go back there. The Republicans ceded my once-glorious home state to the ‘rats twenty-five years ago and it is now a Fascist heaven.

      The whole saga of CA politics is a crying shame and it broke my heart.

      We chose East TN; wish we’d chosen TX but my husband doesn’t like TX because deer hunting is almost impossible because of land leasing issues. The food, arts, activities and weather here suck big time by comparison to CA. But we’re armed and the government knows its place, so there is that. He’s happy.

      IrateNate in reply to JoAnne. | February 16, 2015 at 1:50 pm

      The problem is that sooner or later there will be nowhere left to escape to. The choice will be either be fight or give in, and at that point it may be a bit late to realize we should have stood our ground when we had the chance.

      Gremlin1974 in reply to JoAnne. | February 16, 2015 at 11:49 pm

      Beautiful state, even many beautiful cities, and in most of the state at least about 15 years ago some great people who welcomed tourist, but the political and legal situation there has kept me from visiting again. (I only go to states that recognize my Arkansas CHP.)

    DaveGinOly in reply to ElStegosaur. | February 15, 2015 at 3:18 pm

    That’s VERY interesting. But I would have liked to have seen a grammatical analysis of the 2nd Amendment as adopted by the States (the official version, which the US Senate regularly publishes):

    “A well-regulated Militia being necessary for the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”

    Note this version has only two clauses, with the first being dependent upon the second, and the second being (naturally) independent. This grammatical construction of the amendment accurately reflects the real-life relationship between the militia and the right to arms – the militia depends on the right to arms, the right to arms does not depend on the existence of a militia (as some falsely imply).

    Also, mere grammatical analysis omits the guidance to understanding the 2nd Amendment provided by 1.) the Preamble to the BOR (which declares its purpose is to prevent construction of Congress’ authority to include the power to break into any of the peoples’ rights); 2.) the Ninth Amendment (which both declares that there are unenumerated rights – so no matter what the 2nd Amendment means, that won’t mean that there isn’t a right to arms – and prevents the use of the declarations of the BOR to “deny or disparage” other rights retained by the people); and 3.) the knowledge/understanding that legislative authority is found in Article I of the Constitution (anyone looking for or inferring legislative authority by what is written anywhere in the BOR is looking in the wrong place).

    Ultimately, the right to arms doesn’t exist because of the 2nd Amendment, the 2nd Amendment exists because of the right to arms.

      Insufficiently Sensitive in reply to DaveGinOly. | February 15, 2015 at 3:37 pm

      But I would have liked to have seen a grammatical analysis of the 2nd Amendment as

      The Second Amendment is pretty clearly in favor of individual rights concerning weapons. Why not instead grammatically analyze how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? I’ve already wasted too much time engaging in discussion, and it’s time for target practice.

Humphrey's Executor | February 15, 2015 at 12:59 pm

Voting with one’s feet is an age old American tradition.

I’m not even remotely surprised NJ would make possession of an antique firearm illegal. And slingshots? Seriously?

Another site mentioned the prosecution is being held up because they have to perform ballistics tests on the flintlock. I can just picture employees at the NJ State Police all huddled around trying to figure out how to load it, how to fire it and how to write up the report. They’re going to have to call in a consultant who is going to tell them they’re wasting time and money.

    stevewhitemd in reply to Sanddog. | February 15, 2015 at 1:57 pm

    Perhaps they could ask the defendant for a demonstration…

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Sanddog. | February 15, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    Perhaps Mr. Van Gilder, the defendant-owner of the evidence, can show the ballistics guys how to operate and test it.

    Seriously, I don’t understand how a man his age, who obviously went through school when such things as the constitution and BoR were drummed into our thick little skulls, and is a teacher, and is apparently an Eighteenth Century historian, which was when said constitution and BoR were formed, and upon which this country is founded, could not know that he didn’t have to submit to a search or volunteer diddly squat to the cops.

    I guess leftist indoctrination and assimilation applied slowly in small increments can corrupt the best of minds by cleansing it of critically important memories and thinking skills.

    Gremlin1974 in reply to Sanddog. | February 16, 2015 at 11:52 pm

    Its still pretty sad when you think about the fact that even the ATF doesn’t regulate the sale of a gun that old.

I watched a gun video on TV yesterday which was about the evolution of the firearms of America. It started with a flintlock musket, which was a smooth bore, fired at about 30 yards from a large 6 foot by six foot target. The man fired three shots and hit the target but came no closer than three to four feet from the bull’s eye. Not only did he miss but hit on both extreme ends of the target while aiming at the same spot. It was also interesting that when the powder in the pan went off it was a noticeable delay before the powder in the barrel went off. This meant that even though there was a big flash and bang, the shooter had to freeze until the second flash and bang happened lest the shot go wild. Then he shot a rifle with rifling in the barrel and from the same distance missed the center of the bull’s eye by 1/2 inch. This pistol that the teacher owned would be useless in almost any circumstance other than a suicide since it too had no rifling in the barrel. A chain saw should be considered a more dangerous weapon than this old pistol! I say give NJ back to the indians.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to inspectorudy. | February 15, 2015 at 6:21 pm

    Were I the judge sitting on this case, I’d take one look at the flintlock, turn to the DA and ask, “Mr. Prosecutor, are you serious? GTHO of here and don’t bring me anymore of this BS. Bailiff, return this beautiful piece of history to its owner. Case dismissed, the defendant is excused, and the Court apologizes to Mr. Van Gilder on behalf of the People.”

      The Friendly Grizzly in reply to JackRussellTerrierist. | February 15, 2015 at 8:52 pm

      The only thing I could add is “dismissed with prejudice”.

      Reminds me of a case in HS (1970’s) where a 14 yr old got a speeding ticket, in NJ, in a town a few doors down from me. 45 MPH in a 30 MPH zone. On a bicycle. Downhill, of course. He passed the police car. After initial confusion over why it was only a speeding ticket, because he was obviously too young to have a license, the judge realized what he was dealing with. Looked at the kid: “You were on a bicycle.” “Yes sir.” Looked at the cop: “You gave him a ticket? (in a rising voice)” “Yes sir.” Followed by: “45 on a bicycle? More power to him!. Case dismissed.”

      Speedometers on bicycles weren’t, and aren’t required…

        On the other hand, DWI treated exactly the same on a bicycle as in a car.

        -Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

        Casey in reply to gospace. | February 16, 2015 at 6:31 pm

        Going fast can sometimes catch the local officer’s attention.

        True story: quite a long time ago, while I still lived with my folks, I worked at a restaurant about a mile or so away. During good weather I would ride my 10-speed to work.

        One night I was the last to leave the kitchen, well after the store was closed. The thing here is that the rear parking lot sloped down quite a bit leading to the east-side exit. Made it fun getting in during the winter. Also made it easy to accelerate quickly.

        This night I mounted the bike at the front door of the store and took a counterclockwise loop around the lot to the east exit, so I could catch the light. It was green so I pretty much swooped out of the lot without stopping, and was going pretty fast right through the (still green) light.

        Not 30 seconds later a cherry bar light up behind me. Yes, I was being pulled over. On a bike. The officers were very polite, and just asked me a few questions. What was I doing there, why did I leave so quickly? etc. Pretty sensible questions when you think about it. It wasn’t a bad part of town, but the cops did need to keep their eyes open.

        I told them the truth, then they explained why they were concerned. It looked like someone fleeing a scene, and it wouldn’t have been the first robbery in that area late at night. After that we were pretty much done.

        So, yes, I was once pulled over for going too fast on a bicycle. 🙂

      Unfortunately, the exact opposite has a very good chance of happening.

    Dueling pistols were notoriously inaccurate. Of course, that was considered a desirable feature!! 🙂

Aren’t firearms produced before 1898 classified as antiques and no longer firearms? You do not even need a background check to purchase one, no 4473 involved since it is not considered a gun. State laws may vary. Then again I live in PA, the other side of the river is definitely a different world.

Ballistics tests on a smoothbore flintlock? Just hope they don’t blow themselves up and then charge the retired teacher with reckless endangerment. Several years ago anti-gun literature wanted ALL firearms in museums destroyed since even several hundred year old guns ” were as deadly as when they were made.” Freud was absolutely right about gun phobias….. abnormal sexual shortcomings…. or, as I wonder, a throwback to primal “religious” beliefs that wood and metal in certain shapes possess or concentrate “evil”.

Not sure if the defendant has the fortitude and cash, but this is a case that should be challenged in 2A grounds all the way up. Make the state defend their actions.

Why in God’s name would you tell the sheriff about your flintlock? Obviously he wasn’t a civics teacher or he’d know about the 4th & 5th amendments.

    HIs mistake was to grant consent to the search.

    Once he did that, he was done for.

    Really, folks, there’s never any good reason to consent to an unwarranted search. The upside is minimal, the downside (unless you’re the mythical human being who’s aware of every felony criminal statute in the nation) is substantial.

    But seems this retired teacher may not have known it, if he was unfamiliar with NJ’s draconian gun laws. Nothing I’ve read suggests that he would be familiar–seems he’s simply a collector of 18C stuff, thought of the flintlock as the same, not as an “illegal handgun.”

    –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

      JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Andrew Branca. | February 15, 2015 at 5:50 pm

      Andrew, the defendant is a retired teacher. He’s spent decades kow-towing to the bullying elitists. He’s been indoctrinated to submit himself to the altar of leftism. Snitching himself off was second-nature.

      He’s probably a registered ‘rat and still carries his teacher’s union card.

      But his trust and stupidity in no way excuse the State, of course, and their ‘show of force’ when making the early-morning arrest. I’m surprised the jackasses didn’t bring a SWAT team.

        Wow, you know this guy? Amazing!

        Or are you stereotyping based on your own prejudices?

        I suspect Andrew has the right of it, even if it is silly to buy even an antique pistol without studying the local laws. On the other hand, don’t most statues except black powder muzzle-loaders?

    DevilsPrinciple in reply to BrokeGopher. | February 17, 2015 at 1:04 am

    The law requires that he tell them under penalty. It’s that simple.
    I have a CCW stamp on my license in PA. I was pulled over by an NJ trooper. He saw the CCW endorsement on my license and asked if I was carrying. I told him it’s illegal to carry in NJ. He asked for my consent and searched my SUV.

    Incredibly, he let me go without ever telling me why he pulled me over to begin with.

    That’s how it’s done, “Jersey style.”

His first mistake was to consent to a search of his car. Sure they could bring a dog a make up some BS about the dog alerting but it’s going to use their resources which would be a benefit.

    DaveGinOly in reply to ez. | February 16, 2015 at 12:43 am

    I know I’m on my own, but I’m of the opinion that using a dog constitutes a search (usually warrantless and therefore unconstitutional). If the officer can’t see it, hear it, smell it, or feel it himself without infringing upon protected space or intruding upon private property, and/or without sensory augmentation (a dog, a listening device, a computer, an infrared camera, etc.), then whatever he’s looking for requires a warrant to employ those tools. For instance, “plain sight” means exactly that – the officer must be able to see something with his own eyes, and without technological assistance, while not otherwise making an unconstitutional intrusion. I believe this standard should also apply to the detection of odors – officers should be required to use their own noses, and should need a warrant to augment their examination with a sniffer device, whether that device is organic or electronic.

      DevilsPrinciple in reply to DaveGinOly. | February 17, 2015 at 1:00 am

      Not in NJ, Dave. You violate a traffic law, they’ll ask to search your vehicle. And if you don’t consent? You’ll wait and they’ll get a warrant. Every time. Guaranteed.

This is one of those cases where the defemdent should waive trial by jury. On teh defense, quote every single anti-second amendment proponent stating that teh 2nd amendment protects ONLY guns available at the time the amendment was adopted, which to them means flintlocks only. (They’re ignorant, but that’s besides the point.)

Let the judge know that if he finds the defendent guilty, he’ll be invalidating the Constitution itself, according to anti-gun people and pro-gun people alike, and that he’ll go down as another judge eventually overturned by the Supreme Court.

This is yet another reason why Chris Christie doesn’t have a snow ball’s chance of being president. New Jersey needs an armed insurrection or have everyone just leave the State.

theduchessofkitty | February 15, 2015 at 5:19 pm

“Avoid New Jersey. Don’t come here.”

Thanks. I’m quite happy here in TX. I’m in no hurry to get to NJ any time soon. Good luck, buddy!

Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

His mistake was two-fold: consenting to a warrantless search, of course, but doing so in a state where possessing a colonial era museum piece weapon is a felony.

If I’ve got a brick of rock cocaine in my glovebox and I say, “sure, go ahead and search!” I should expect new living quarters in short order, nobody’s fault but my own. Same goes if it’s an illegal weapon instead of drugs.

It’s not NJ’s fault, as loathesome as their gun control laws are to me. It’s this guy’s own fault for volunteering evidence of his felony to law enforcement.

I’m in NC, a ‘shall issue’ state with the Castle doctrine. I wasn’t born here. Vote for change. If that doesn’t work due to the strength of the opposition (deep blue states), then vote with your feet and put the offending state line well behind you.

    “It’s not NJ’s fault, as loathesome as their gun control laws are to me.”

    I disagree. It is NJ that has an unconstitutional law and it is NJ that is at fault.

    Yes, stupid to allow a search without the warrant. It’s NJ, they likely would have gotten a warrant on some BS pretext just to make the guy pay a price for refusing the search.


Jersey Jerks; avoid it at all cost. I drive 1.5 hours out of my way to get to upper NY state or NH to avoid going through NJ.

NJ. Some days I just wish the South had won.

DevilsPrinciple | February 17, 2015 at 12:57 am

Believe me, I could tell you stories about running for a local city council seat in NJ in a Democrat run town, as a Republican, and as an “outsider” who moved into town. The corruption was rampant, especially inside the police department. The PD there took their lessons well from the mafia.

Much of this started when Florio was elected. Probably the most hated Governor in NJ history. The only good thing about living 10 miles from the NJ border is the ultra cheap gas and liquor.

Trust me, they really are fascists.

“Van Gilder consented to a requested search of his vehicle”

Why would you do that? Never do that!

It’s a shame that ordinary citizens are persecuted with their own tax dollars by overzealous prosecutors enforcing the wrong laws against the wrong people.

NJ is so heavily democratic, though, I’m not sure it’ll ever get straightened out. It’s amazing to me that a state could be more f#$%ked up than California with respect to firearms regulations.

Connecticut had 6 seats in the US House until losing one after the 2000 census. A state run into the ground by libs.
Gallup Poll showed 49% of residents would move out if they could. Only Illinois was worse at 50%. Maryland and NJ not far behind.