Simply mentioning that you have a legal gun is now apparently a felony in New Jersey. North Carolina resident Brian Fletcher was arrested, charged and jailed because he told a cop that he had a gun in his truck.
“I didn’t understand I was breaking any laws,” Fletcher told NJ.com. “I thought I was actively following the law by mentioning to the officer I was carrying a gun.”
Ironically, Fletcher and his brother were in the state to help repair thunderstorm damage to cell towers. Fletcher is co-owner of a company that repairs and upgrades cell phone towers, and he and his brother had traveled to Hamilton, New Jersey, to help repair towers when they decided to pull over in a parking lot and sleep.
Fletcher knew a policeman might stop and check on them, but he thought his explanation – storm damage work – would be sufficient. He made the mistake of telling a local police officer that he had a loaded gun in his vehicle. In North Carolina, such an admission is required by law, and Fletcher would have been OK. But New Jersey laws are very different, and it doesn’t recognize gun laws of other states.
The officer arrested Fletcher and charged him with unlawful possession of a handgun, a felony that can lead to a five-year prison term.
Fletcher ended up spending the night in jail and was released the next day on $25,000 bail.
Arrested for Doing the Right Thing
Fletcher said he started carrying a gun after seeing the lawlessness in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, where he also repaired storm damage. Fletcher told NJ.com he saw fellow workers robbed, and he now routinely carries a weapon when he does emergency repairs to protect himself.
“You go from thinking you’re following the law to find out you’re breaking the law,” Fletcher said of the officer’s action in New Jersey. “I was pretty shocked.”
Half a million people were without a power.
When he gets a call to help with storm damage in another state, he often leaves within a couple of hours.
“I had no time to open the computer and research New Jersey gun laws,” Fletcher said. “The gun was the last thing on my mind.”
Driving With a Gun Is a Crime in New Jersey
Fletcher is not the only person arrested for carrying a legal gun in New Jersey. Pennsylvania resident Shaneen Allen ended up spending 40 days in jail because she had a pistol in her car in Atlantic County, New Jersey. It was licensed in her home state, but New Jersey didn’t recognize it.
Allen faced up to three years in prison but the charges were dropped after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie pardoned her. Fletcher is hoping that Christie, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, also will pardon him, NJ.com reported.
“I expect that he is going to follow suit in this case,” Fletcher’s attorney, Les Hartman, said of Christie. “He’s made that perfectly clear on the campaign trail and I hope that he follows through on that.”
If he does not get a pardon, then Fletcher, who has no criminal record, would have to return to New Jersey and enter a pre-trial intervention program or stand trial.
Fletcher’s family and friends have started an online petition in an effort to pressure Christie. It is available atiPetitons.com.
“I would like your help ensure my husband doesn’t go to prison for having his NC LEGAL firearm with him while he was in NJ to HELP them recover from storm damage,” his wife wrote in the petition.”