NEW JERSEY — A man who hurt nobody, and technically broke no laws, was turned into a convicted felon and has had his life ruined thanks to New Jersey’s tyrannical gun control laws. Almost five years later, and still fighting to clear his name, Brian Aitken makes a desperate attempt to get his son returned to him, whom he hasn’t seen in years. And he needs our help.
Originally from New Jersey, Aitken, age 24 at the time, had moved to Colorado for several years, but in 2008 had decided to move back to New Jersey to be closer to his ex-wife and his 2-year-old son, as well as his parents. Aitken began a back-and-forth process of moving his belongings, making several road-trips across the country, and temporarily dropping off his belongings with his parents in Burlington County.
He was “just a regular guy” back then, says Aitken. “I had student loans, I had a Honda Civic… I didn’t really have much to my name.”
December 2008 was his final road-trip. He transported the last of his belongings to his parents’ house, which included 3 firearms he had purchased in Colorado. Being a law-abiding citizen, Aitken followed New Jersey’s restrictive requirement of locking his pistols in the trunk of his car as he transported them. Aitken even went as far as to research and print out the applicable state and federal laws that applied to his trip to be sure he didn’t break any of them, according to his friend Michael Torries’ in later testimony. Aitken even called NJ police prior to the trip to be sure he didn’t miss anything. That’s how terrifying the state of New Jersey is for lawful gun owners.
Aitken’s first priority in New Jersey was to visit his baby son, but that was not going smoothly as his ex-wife was denying him access. On January 2, 2009, Aitken’s mother, Sue Aitken, grew worried about him after he told her that he “didn’t see the point in being here if he couldn’t see [his] son.” It was a vague comment from a defeated father. Aitken packed up his things for another move to Hoboken where he had found a place to stay. Thinking she would do the responsible thing, Aitken’s mother called police for advice while he driving. She dialed 9-1-1, and before anyone answered, she hung up, having thought better of it. The police responded anyway. When they arrived, police made her tell them the reason she had called them. Police had her request that Brian turn his car around and return to his parents’ house… so police could “help” him feel better.
Brian complied with his mother and returned, where police waited for him. There, they determined Brian was not a threat to himself, but they searched his car anyway. There they found Brian’s handguns, buried beneath his clothes and nicknacks. In a duffel bag, police found three handguns; “unloaded, disassembled, cleaned and wrapped in a cloth,” his father said. Aitken had abided by everything the gun controllers had demanded. The police arrested Aitken anyway, charging him with unlawful possession of a weapon.
Now facing serious charges, Aitken’s life went downhill fast. “All of a sudden I couldn’t even be a parent anymore. I wasn’t allowed to see my son. I lost my house. I spent every penny that I had trying to get custody back of my son, and trying to fight these charges from the state, even though I had never hurt anyone,” said Aitken in his YouTube video.
“For quite some time I was pretty confident as soon as intelligent people with logical minds took a look at what happened they might slap him with a fine or something,” Aitken’s father Larry said. “When the prosecutor came down with an indictment, I was dumbfounded.”
The state sent Brian Aitken to trial. There he faced a remorseless anti-gun judge and a jury who had never heard of the Bill of Rights.
New Jersey’s gun control laws are so draconian that gun owners must prove their innocence by proving they fall into a small category of people who are allowed to possess firearms outside of the nearly-impossible-to-get state handgun carry permit. Despite it being obvious that Aitken was transporting property between residences — one of the few exemptions — the courts threw the book at him. In court, Superior Court Judge James Morley wouldn’t allow Aitken to claim the exemption for transporting guns between residences, and wouldn’t even let the jury know about it, or his mother’s and former roommate’s testimony that he was in the process of moving. Even one of the police officers testified that his car was full of his belongings. Nope, said the judge. The exemption could not be claimed. That’s a testament to the state of New Jersey’s freedom-hating gun laws and legal system. Judge Morley claimed:
“There was no evidence that Mr. Aitken was moving. He was trying to argue that the law should give him this broad window extending over several weeks to justify driving around with guns in his car. There was also some evidence that Mr. Aitken wasn’t moving at all when he was arrested, but had stored the guns in his car because his roommate was throwing a party, and he didn’t want the guns in the apartment while guests were there drinking.”
The ignorant jury handed Aitken a conviction instead of freeing a man who harmed nobody. In New Jersey, possession of a firearm without a permit is a felony, punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum of ten. Aitken was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison. The bars slammed shut on Aitken inside the Mid-State Correctional Facility in Fort Dix, New Jersey.
“New Jersey gun laws are insane,” said Evan Nappen, Aitken’s attorney. “It makes a criminal of every gun owner and forces him to prove his innocence.”
All branches of government converged to impose tyranny on an innocent man: The police, who could have simply let Aitken walk away after realizing he was not suicidal; The judge, who could have dismissed the case, or allowed his defense to use the “transportation between residences” exemption; The jury, which could have used jury nullification and voted not guilty to free a man who obviously hadn’t harmed anyone; The legislature, who had created these awful restrictions to begin with; And the voters who had put up with this system of laws for so many years.
Aitken’s lawyers called it the “perfect storm of injustice,” a phrase that New Jersey should consider making its new state slogan.
“I don’t think there are words yet invented that could characterize the — I guess anger would be one word, but it’s a lot deeper than anger,” Larry Aitken told FoxNews.com. “Whatever the word is that’s a combination of anger, shock, disbelief, horror and a desire to expose all of this — that’s the word.” Larry continued, “This can’t happen. I won’t let this happen to my son.”
Aitken began his prison sentence. Thousands of gun owners and freedom supporters rallied behind his cause. Feeling the political pressure, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a letter to commute Aitken’s sentence on December 20th, 2010, nearly one year after his arrest, and after four months of prison. He was free.
Governor Christie had not granted Aitken a “pardon.” A pardon would have been a tacit admission that the laws were unjust. Christie doesn’t believe that. He still wanted Brian Aitken to live with being a convicted felon. That’s why Christie only commuted the sentence, after months of political pressure from the civil rights community. Christie continues to oversee a system that destroys lives every day through unfair gun restrictions. And that’s why Christie, being the anti-gun zealot that he is, subsequently signed his name increasing the penalties for bearing arms without a permit. Now, under New Jersey’s S.2804, the mandatory minimum sentence jumped from 36 to 42 months. Take that, gun owners!
Aitken had caught a break, but was still a long way to getting his life back. He’s still a convicted felon: unable to get access to his son, unable to pass a background check, unable to ever legally own a gun again, unable to vote, unable to travel internationally since his passport was revoked. He must live with the scarlet letter of being a felon, emotionally and economically broken from this injustice.
“My family will never be the same,” said Aitken, holding up a picture of his son, Logan, whom he hasn’t seen in four years. “My biggest goal with this book is just to put my story on paper. So that one day my son can pick it up and read it and know that I never stopped loving him. So that one day, he’ll know why I wasn’t around when he was young.”
Aitken is hoping that that his book will raise awareness of the tyranny of gun control laws and will help him get the financial footing he needs to work within the Injustice System and hopefully be reunited with his little boy.
“The New Jersey Supreme Court does not want to hear my case. So I’m taking it to the United States Supreme Court,” Aitken announced.
He is currently “petitioning the Supreme Court of the United States to hear his case and overturn his status as a felon so he can once again see his son.”
Brian Aitken’s story puts a human face on the arbitrary gun laws that so many people seem to support in the name of “safety” and “common sense.” The reality is that gun control destroys lives, it destroys families, it destroys freedom, and it keeps no one safer. There are people just like Brian in prison all over the country, locked up for hurting nobody. Gun restrictions are a hallmark of a police state.
Help Brian Aitken by pre-ordering his book and assisting him with the expensive legal nightmare that lies ahead.
Here is Brian’s emotional plea to help him fight the system that has destroyed his life. I encourage everyone show their support to help a family that has been through so much heartbreak. Share his story and contribute to his cause.
Additional Reference: Brian Aitken’s Mistake | Radley Balko
Brian’s personal story: My Life as a Convicted Gun Offender Who Did Nothing Wrong