Gordon Van Gilder, a 72 year-old retired schoolteacher, faces up to 10 years in prison for transporting an unloaded, antique pistol in his car. A felony conviction would also jeopardize his pension, which he earned over the course of 34 years.
Mr. Van Gilder is a collector of 18th century memorabilia. He recently acquired a 300 year-old flintlock pistol, unloaded it and wrapped it in a cloth. He was transporting it in his glovebox when he was pulled over for a minor traffic violation. When officers asked if there was anything in the car they should be worried about, Van Gilder notified them of the pistol. While he was not arrested at that time, patrol cars arrived at his home the following morning and placed him under arrest.
This unfortunate situation is all too common in New Jersey, which has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. New Jersey classifies antique firearms the same as modern ones, so Van Gilder is subject to the same penalty as if he was transporting a semi-automatic handgun. There is some light at the end of the tunnel. There are situations in which courts will allow pretrial intervention for these kinds of minor firearm offenses, allowing defendants to avoid blemishes on their record if they successfully complete the program. Let’s just hope this is one of those situations.