A New Jersey prosecutor has decided to drop the felony gun charge brought against retired teacher Gordon Van Gilder for possession of an antique flintlock pistol.
If convicted, Van Gilder, 72, could have faced a 10-year jail sentence, with a mandatory minimum of three to five years, plus the likely loss of his public school pension. New Jersey’s strict gun control law makes no distinction, for example, between illegally having a loaded, modern weapon such as a 44 Magnum and an antique firearm.
A history buff and memorabilia collector, Van Gilder had the unloaded 300-year-old pistol in the glovebox of his car when he was pulled over in a routine traffic stop in Cumberland County, New Jersey, last November. Van Gilder purchased the item from a pawn shop to add to his collection. The county sheriff later claimed that Van Gilder was pulled over because he was traveling through a sketchy neighborhood known for its drug dealing, the Daily Journal reported.
Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae, however, exercised “prosecutorial discretion” to dismiss a charge of second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon against the ex-educator, adding that “accordingly, the public should be forewarned about the prescriptions against possessing a firearm — even an antique — in a vehicle,” she said earlier this week.
Van Gilder’s lawyer, who praised the prosecutor’s decision not to go forward with the case that created an outcry among gun owners and Second Amendment supporters, described the antique pistol as a valuable collector’s item, which he and his client will now try to retrieve from law enforcement authorities.
“This is a Queen Anne flintlock, which is a very pretty gun. The barrel looks like a cannon and it has a single shot — you have to actually untwist the barrel to load it — it’s pretty involved to even attempt to load it. But the craftsmanship is from the 1760s, and it’s just magnificent to think that every piece of it was handmade,” gun rights attorney Evan Nappen noted.
Some state legislators are pushing for an amendment to the law that would exclude antique firearms or to give judges more discretion over unlawful weapons possession busts.
In an NRA video before the case was resolved, Gordon Van Gilder declared that he was moving away from his home state as a result of the gun charge and warned, “Beware of New Jersey. Don’t come here. Don’t live here.”
Commenting on the outcome that takes the retired teacher off the hook, Legal Insurrection asserted that “Good for Mr. Van Gilder. I trust he’ll make good on his promise to relocate outside of New Jersey at the earliest opportunity.”
[Image via YouTube]