By David A. Keene, President
Early one morning last month my phone began ringing. I stumbled out of bed, glanced at the clock and wondered who would be calling me before dawn. It was a friend who said a mutual acquaintance had been arrested, handcuffed and hauled off to the slammer on a felony firearm possession charge as he was checking in for a flight at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, and he needed a lawyer fast.
He used his one call to telephone his wife who told my friend to contact me. Surely the president of the NRA could help. It was hard enough just to get me up at that time of the morning, but I was able to get an attorney familiar with New York’s crazy gun laws to go down and get our friend released from jail, pending disposition of the charges against him.
The attorney and his new client met with me the next day. The good news, said the lawyer, is that our friend won’t have to spend the next 15 years at Attica because the case won’t go to trial. He was sure he could cut a deal with the Queens County prosecutors if our friend would plead guilty to “disorderly conduct,” pay a stiff fine, court costs and acquiesce in the seizure of his handgun.
Our friend protested that he hadn’t done anything wrong. His handgun was in a locked case as required, he declared it as he was checking his luggage, and the cops apologized as they were handcuffing him. The airlines and the TSA personnel at the scene found no fault with what he was doing, yet he found himself in a holding cell in Queens facing felony charges.
This happens. A particularly outrageous arrest took place last year at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. A competitive shooter flying home on Delta Airlines via Chicago was stranded at O’Hare when a storm forced the airline to cancel his flight. Passengers were told to collect their luggage at baggage claim and then were taken by bus to a hotel where the airline had thoughtfully booked rooms while they waited for the next morning’s flight out. When the competitor checked in the next morning and dutifully declared his firearm, Chicago’s finest handcuffed him and dragged him off for bringing a firearm into the Windy City.
This is more than just troubling. The Firearms Owners’ Protection Act is supposed to prevent this sort of arrest, but unfortunately recent court decisions in NRA-supported cases have made this right of free travel extremely difficult to enforce. An anti-gun jurisdiction ruled by someone like New York’s Michael Bloomberg can have a legal firearm owner transiting his fiefdom arrested and force him to raise his right to transit as a defense at trial. These arrests are made with the full knowledge that taking them to trial will probably result in non-criminal plea deals or dismissals, but they are made anyway to harass innocent travelers, burnish the mayors’ anti-gun credentials, and make money for their cities and their lawyers.
I asked the attorney the NRA had rounded up to defend our friend in New York if many people last year had run into similar problems at LaGuardia. He said that in the last five years there had been something on the order of several hundred arrests at local New York airports; none of the cases he handled went to trial as all had been resolved by motions or pled down to non-criminal charges like, you guessed it, “disorderly conduct.”
In the twisted mind of New York City’s mayor and his political cronies (like Queens County D.A. Richard Brown) anyone who believes in the Second Amendment is apparently guilty of “disorderly conduct” for siding with the Founders, the Congress and the Supreme Court rather than with them. As a result, hundreds of people have been forced to pay thousands of dollars in fines and court costs, surrender hundreds of valuable firearms and hire expensive lawyers to spring them. I’d like to have someone explain how that makes New York any different from a 1950s speed trap or how Michael Bloomberg and his like-minded bedfellows are any different from rural sheriffs more interested in fines than justice.
All of this happens in spite of the legislative victories we’ve won because liberal, gun-hating politicians are willing to ignore the law, the Supreme Court and due process to harass those of us who believe in the Right to Keep and Bear Arms or who engage in the shooting sports.
Defending the Constitution requires more than lobbying legislators or winning arguments in court. We need to stand up to and replace politicians—federal, state and local—who are willing to ignore our constitutional rights and who misuse their power and authority to make us suffer for our beliefs and faith in the traditions and values that have made this country great.
We can do that this November—and we must!