Another professional athlete is in hot water over a gun. New York Knicks starting point guard Raymond Felton was arrested on Feb. 25 on two felony gun charges. Unlike the NFL's Plaxico Burress, who was illegally carrying a gun in a New York City nightclub and accidentally shot himself in the leg, or fellow NBA player Gilbert Arenas who had several guns in his locker at the Verizon Center in downtown Washington, D.C., and involved them in a "practical joke" threat against another player, Felton's crime involved having a single, loaded handgun in a bag under the bed in his apartment. The only thing that made the gun illegal was the fact that the apartment is in New York City.
Felton was originally reported to be facing a minimum of three and a half – and a maximum of seven – years for just the primary charge of criminal possession of a firearm. Later reports indicate that prosecutors went with a slightly lower felony charge that carries a one-year minimum sentence. The second felony charge is for criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree and also has a one-year minimum sentence. Both minimums, however, can be substituted with community service and probation at the judge's discretion. Felton was also charged with misdemeanor possession of a firearm, and there are a slew of other state and city charges that could be stacked on if prosecutors wanted to do it, including the crime of having too many rounds in a magazine under New York's new SAFE Act.
There could be more to this story; there are claims that Felton had previously used the gun to threaten his wife during arguments, but she never called the police to make a report. She was the one who gave the gun to police, though. Ariane Raymondo-Felton had her attorney take the gun to a local police precinct while her soon-to-be ex-husband was playing a game against the Dallas Mavericks at Madison Square Garden. She had filed for divorce a week prior and claimed that she was scared to have the gun in the house any longer.
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If Felton threatened his wife with a gun, there is no excuse for that, and he deserves to face consequences for it, but that is not the charge. Under the current charge, Felton's only crime was to have a loaded pistol in his own home without special permission from the government – something that should never be a crime and only is in a handful of places in the U.S. Contrary to what the politicians and the media would have us believe, the "gun culture" is part of the dominant culture in this country. It is an integral part of the American culture, which values God, hard work, self-reliance, morality, hospitality, history, family and individual liberty.
Unfortunately for Felton, he stumbled into one of those places in America where the culture has been eroded by a vocal minority that has been working for decades to undermine the dominant American culture. In the new American culture there is no right or wrong, except in the eyes of the law – which no longer has anything at all to do with justice.
In North Carolina, where Felton is from, owning a gun is relatively simple, and just about everyone who can afford one has one. There's also still a bit of that Mayberry attitude down there where police and prosecutors are a little more concerned with peace and justice than law and order. For Felton, having a gun in the house is probably as normal as having furniture. He might have known that he wasn't supposed to have one in New York City, but back home it wouldn't be treated as a big deal, even if he did happen to have it somewhere he wasn't supposed to. But New York City isn't Mayberry, and Raymond Felton isn't Opie Taylor.
As a gifted athlete and NBA star, Felton is probably used to getting special treatment. And even though it doesn't seem like it, he's getting special treatment in this case. Were you or I to get caught with a gun in New York City, it is highly unlikely that prosecutors would have filed anything less than the heaviest possible charges against us, and there's no way we would have walked out the same day on just $25,000 bail. But even with the special star treatment from NYC, Felton is looking at a serious situation. If he doesn't play this right, it could mean not only jail time and a loss of his rights forever, it could easily mean the end of his career and a loss of millions of dollars. I wonder if his future ex-wife thought about that loss of income aspect before she made the decision to give the gun to the police?
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Felton will probably come out of this without too much damage. His attorney will work out a deal for probation and community service, and Felton will cop to some lesser charge. If he's lucky and his lawyer is any good, he might not even get stuck with a felony. Meanwhile, rather than institute a program to help ensure that their players are safe, responsible gun owners, the leadership of the NBA will probably give Felton a slap on the wrist and make some stupid suggestions about banning players from owning firearms. And New York will keep right on persecuting people for exercising their fundamental right to an effective means of defending themselves – even in their own homes – because that's the way the ball bounces.
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