MILLVILLE, NJ — A retired schoolteacher is facing felony charges for owning an 18th century relic firearm in the state of New Jersey.
Gordan N. Van Gilder, 72, was pulled over by a Cumberland County Sheriff’s Deputy on November 20, 2014 for a minor traffic violation.
“The deputy, Joshua Sheppard, started screaming at us,” Mr. Van Gilder recalled to NRA News. “He wanted to search the car.”
“You’re going to give us your consent, or do I have to get the dog?” Deputy Sheppard allegedly challenged.
“You don’t have to get any dogs. Help yourself,” Van Gilder recounted saying to the deputy.
When asked, Mr. Van Gilder told the deputy that he had an unloaded, antique pistol wrapped up in a cloth in his glove compartment. The collectible pistol was made in the mid-1700s and would require the manual loading of gunpowder and spherical projectiles in order to actually fire.
His cooperation with the police ended up being his undoing. The Sheriff’s Deputy nailed him with felony charges because of the antique.
Mr. Van Gilder elaborated on the situation in his interview with NRA News. “They were trying hard to nail me,” he said. “I don’t get it.”
The Cumberland County Sheriff himself signed off on the arrest, Van Gilder stated. His charging document spelled out his offense:
THE DEFENDANT… DID KNOWINGLY AND/OR PURPOSELY HAVE IN HIS POSSESSION A WEAPON, SPECIFICALLY A “FLINT GUN” WITHOUT HAVING PROPER PAPER WORK ON HIS PERSON AND IMPROPERLY STORED IN A MOTOR VEHICLE; IN VIOLATION OF N.J.C. 2C 39-5B
New Jersey’s gun control laws are notoriously draconian. It is one of the few states that enforces gun registration and explicitly does not exempt antique firearms, as many states do. According to the law, there is no legal distinction between a three-century-old piece of history and a modern, operable firearm. All of these — regardless of the presence of a victim or malicious intent — are considered prohibited items without acquiring government permission, and carry grave legal consequences.
In fact, the law is so repressive that it criminalizes guns powered by springs, compressed air, and elastic bands. The state could charge individuals with felonies for owning slingshots.
Title 2C of the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice is worded as follows:
b. Handguns. Any person who knowingly has in his possession any handgun, including any antique handgun, without first having obtained a permit to carry the same as provided in N.J.S.A. 2C:58-4, is guilty of a crime of the third degree if the handgun is in the nature of an air gun, spring gun or pistol or other weapon of a similar nature in which the propelling force is a spring, elastic band, carbon dioxide, compressed or other gas or vapor, air or compressed air, or is ignited by compressed air, and ejecting a bullet or missile smaller than three-eighths of an inch in diameter, with sufficient force to injure a person. Otherwise it is a crime of the second degree.
The felony charges carry a maximum sentence of ten years in prison, with a mandatory minimum of 3.5 to 5 years without the possibility of parole.
If Mr. Van Gilder lives long enough to be released from prison, he would be branded as a felon, stripped of his voting privileges, his pension would be endangered, and he would never be able to lawfully possess any other firearm for the rest of his life.
The retired educator says he’s going to fight the charges because he knows his rights, but he will be abandoning his home state of New Jersey post haste.
“I hope that draconian laws, leading to a police state, will be dropped,” Van Gilder said. “I think I can win this, and if I don’t my heart is lost, for all of America.”
Demand the charges be dropped against Gordon Van Gilder, and demand that the government stop harassing harmless people who intend no harm.
Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department (Bridgeton, NJ)
Phone: (856) 451-4449
To contribute to Mr. Van Gilder’s defense, please visit this link: Van Gilder Legal Defense Fund