Here’s a typical gun case in Albany. I’m told this happens about once a week in Colonie Town Court and I have defended several of them:
John, a licensed pistol owner from another state, flies into Albany Airport on business. At his home airport he checks his pistol following FAA regulations. He arrives in Albany and picks up his pistol at baggage claim, and leaves to go to his conference. After a few days, he returns to the airport to fly home. He checks his pistol following FAA regulations.
At this moment, John no longer possesses the gun. Even under loose notions of possession, he does not have control over it any more because the airline personnel now have it.
The airline personnel notify the Sheriff’s office. A deputy sheriff comes over and arrests John for unlawful possession of a weapon under Penal Law § 265.01, an A misdemeanor – a crime.
While I don’t like this whole situation, I will give credit to the deputies for something. In all of the cases I’ve seen, they don’t hold the defendant. They detain John for a fairly brief period and give him a ticket to show up in Colonie Town Court. John makes his plane home.
I will also give credit to the prosecutors and judge. While these cases don’t get dismissed, I have been able to negotiate reductions to non-criminal violations without my clients having to come back to Court. And we usually are able to get the gun back, through licensed firearms dealers.
It may not be obvious, so I’ll be clear why this is stupid. The biggest reason is because John is leaving. It might make some sense if John was arrested at baggage claim when he arrives in Albany. The vague idea of NY’s gun laws is to protect residents from people carrying guns in our state. John is no longer carrying the gun, so this is idiotic. Even the anti-gun people I talk to think this is stupid.
There are other problems. John is a licensed gun owner in another state. He followed FAA regulations by checking the gun. He is, generally, a law-abiding citizen. He didn’t cause any problems while in NY. John is not a danger.
Also, as discussed on my Second Amendment page, it is essentially impossible for an out-of-state resident to get a pistol license in New York. This is unconstitutional.
No one told John he can’t bring his gun into New York. “Well, he should have checked first,” you might say. Do you check whether your drivers license is valid when you travel to other states? One simple step for NY, and something I would do as Governor, is direct our police to respect firearms licenses from other states.
I talk to every client about fighting the case, but so far all of them just want to get it over with and move on with their lives. One of these days …