A New Jersey prosecutor has reportedly dropped felony gun charges against Gordon Van Gilder, a 72-year-old retired schoolteacher who faced 10 years in prison for possessing an unloaded 18th-century flintlock pistol in his car.
“I’m very appreciative that they exercised their discretion here and did the right thing,” said Evan Nappen, Mr. Van Gilder’s attorney, The Daily Journal reported.
Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae announced in a news release that the state will exercise “prosecutorial discretion to dismiss” the second-degree gun charge against Mr. Van Gilder, The Daily Journal reported.
“Accordingly, the public should be forewarned about the prescriptions against possessing a firearm — even an antique — in a vehicle,” Ms. Webb-McRae added.
Mr. Van Gilder, a collector of 18th-century memorabilia, acknowledged that he had the antique Queen Anne flintlock 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, according to a video posted last week by NRA News.
Sheriff Robert Austino later said his officers pulled Mr. Van Gilder and his driver over because they were in a suspicious neighborhood known for illegal drug activity, The Daily Journal reported.
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 in the NRA video. “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. Mr. Van Gilder had faced a maximum of 10 years in prison and the loss of his state pension if convicted.
Mr. Nappen praised the prosecutor’s decision in dismissing the case, and said his client would follow up on trying to retrieve the pistol from the county’s custody.
Mr. Van Gilder’s story made national headlines last week and even spurred at least two New Jersey lawmakers to introduce bills that would provide state judges with sentencing discretion in future cases involving unlawful weapons charges against people who have no prior criminal convictions, The Daily Journal reported.