Gordon Van Gilder, a 72-year-old retired schoolteacher in New Jersey, faces a 10-year prison sentence for possessing an unloaded 18th-century flintlock pistol in his car.
Mr. Van Gilder, a collector of 18th-century memorabilia, said he had the gun unloaded and wrapped in a cloth in the glove compartment of his vehicle when he was pulled over in November by a Cumberland County sheriff’s deputy for a minor traffic violation, according to a video posted last week by NRA News.
After consenting to a search of his vehicle, Mr. Van Gilder said he alerted the deputy of the pistol in his glove box. The deputy let him go that night, but four police officers showed up at his home the next morning with an arrest warrant, he told NRA News.
“Beware of New Jersey. Don’t come here. Don’t live here,” Mr. Van Gilder said. “Here I am, a retired teacher coming out of his house in handcuffs, who had a flintlock pistol and now I’m charged as a felon. It’s unbelievable. It’s outrageous. It’s an insult to decent people.”
New Jersey’s gun laws explicitly include antique firearms, even though federal laws exempt them.
Evan Nappen, an attorney who specializes in gun law cases and is representing Mr. Van Gilder, says that even a plea agreement that avoids jail time but convicts Mr. Van Gilder of a felony would likely jeopardize his teacher’s pension he spent 34 years earning, Legal Insurrection reported.
“It’s a mid-1700s flintlock bonafide antique pistol, unloaded, and yet he’s facing the same draconian penalty as if he had a .44 magnum loaded on his person. It doesn’t matter. There’s no distinction,” Mr. Nappen said.
Mr. Nappen said the prosecutor in the case even asked for ballistics testing on the black powder gun — an exercise that experts in the video argued is futile on such an old firearm.
Mr. Van Gilder said he refuses to spend what could be the rest of his life behind bars and declared he isn’t going to go down without a fight.
“I like to mind my own business and not bother anybody, but I have no choice here,” he said in the video. “I’ve been thrown to the lions, so I’m going to fight back. I want these people to know they’re messing with the wrong guy, because I know my rights and they’re not going to get away with this.”
Mr. Van Gilder said he has already made plans to move out of New Jersey once his legal troubles are over.