In a situation reminiscent of the Shaneen Allen case, a 72-year-old retired school teacher in New Jersey faces a 10-year felony sentence (a likely life sentence) and the jeopardization of his pension for possession of an unloaded 300-year-old flintlock pistol.
Gordon Van Gilder taught school for 34 years and is a collector of 18th-century memorabilia. He acquired an 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.
“When asked by the officer if there was anything in the car the officer should be worried about,” wrote Andrew Branca on Legal Insurrection, “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 has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, and it classifies antique firearms the same way it classifies regular guns. Attorney Evan Nappen, who specializes in gun law cases, said despite the antique nature of the flintlock pistol, Van Gilder is “facing the same draconian penalty as if he had a .44 magnum loaded on his person … There’s no distinction.”
In a videotaped interview, Nappen said, “You name it, New Jersey regulates it, and they just don’t make it into misdemeanors. Every one of them is a felony. Every one. You have a slingshot in New Jersey, you face a felony charge.”
Nappen, who is representing Van Gilder, successfully represented Philadelphia nurse Shaneen Allen when she was charged with unlawful possession of her Pennsylvania-licensed handgun in New Jersey. Allen faced five years of prison time but was able to accept pre-trial intervention, a kind of probation which would allow her to avoid jail time, since she met a new set of criteria for out-of-state gun owners to get leniency.
Branca notes, “Van Gilder will be fortunate indeed if Nappen can win him a similar arrangement [as Allen]. 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.”
“It’s the world turned upside-down,” said Van Gilder in a videotaped interview. “Beware of New Jersey. Don’t come here. Don’t live here.”