You may have heard of the case of Brian Aitken, who was sentenced to seven years in prison in New Jersey for transporting guns he had legally acquired as a Colorado resident while relocating to the Garden State. (Yes, you read that right – he’s doing seven years for moving his own guns to his own residence.) As you might imagine, this has sparked more than a bit of outrage in many corners, and there is a Facebook group devoted to his release. The Philadelphia Daily News has picked up the story, and while there’s nothing really new there, this howler caught my attention:
“What little I can glean about the transportation issue leaves me puzzled, but a person with common sense would not be moving illegal products from one place to another by car,” said Bryan Miller, executive director of CeaseFire NJ, an organization devoted to reducing gun violence.
Mr. Miller. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that he really hadn’t been moving, as testified by his mother, his friend and the arresting officer. He still needs to move said firearms and related items to his home. So how precisely would you suggest he transport them? A U-Haul truck, I’m guessing? Armored vehicle, perhaps? Gee, how about a caravan of law enforcement to accompany him, lest he be consumed by his primal urges and prompted to go on a homicide spree? I mean, really – do you have any idea how profoundly stupid you sound?
“If Mr. Aitken did the research he said he did, he would not have hollow-point bullets and large-capacity magazines in the vehicle,” Miller said. “They are illegal, period.”
If anybody has failed to do his research, it would be Miller. As indicated in Radley Balko’s excellent article (the first link above):
In December 2008 Aitken made a final trip back to Colorado to collect the last of his possessions, including the three handguns he had legally purchased in Colorado—transactions that required him to pass a federal background check. Aitken and his friend Michael Torries had found an apartment in Hoboken, and Torries accompanied Aitken to Colorado to help with the last leg of the move. According to testimony Torries later gave at Aitken’s trial, before leaving Colorado Aitken researched and printed out New Jersey and federal gun laws to be sure he moved his firearms legally. Richard Gilbert, Aitken’s trial attorney, says Aitken also called the New Jersey State Police to get advice on how to legally transport his guns, although Burlington County Superior Court Judge James Morley didn’t allow testimony about that phone call at Aitken’s trial.
This guy did everything he could to make sure he was legally within the bounds of the law. He took great pains to transport his legally acquired firearms as required by state and federal law. Yet he still ends up sentenced to prison. And Miller suggests that, in spite of all his efforts to follow the letter and spirit of the law, he had it coming?
Given recent SCOTUS rulings, I’m actually quite optimistic on the long-term odds of the survival of the Second Amendment, at least at the federal level. The real battleground moving forward is at the state and local level. And if this case is any indication, the next target should be New Jersey. Any state with such insane gun laws should be easy pickings in court. Here’s hoping this case has gotten the attention of somebody at IJ.