The legality of owning firearms resides firmly in the founding fathers’ crafting of the Second Amendment, but a patchwork of state and municipal gun laws threaten to undermine a citizen’s right to keep and bear arms.
Nowhere is the assault on the Second Amendment more evident than in New York City where unsuspecting airline passengers are winding-up in jail after running afoul of Mayor Bloomberg’s interpretation of the Second Amendment. The NY mayor’s dislike of firearms is well known, and he even formed an “anti-gun” taskforce. The three-term Mayor even tried to peddle his anti-gun program to Arizona, after a psychologically unstable person shot Rep. Gabriel Gifford’s. Perhaps, most recently readers may remember Bloomberg’s anti-gun commercial that aired during this years’ Super Bowl.
Bloomberg’s law or tourist trap, recently ensnared Mark Meckler, Tea Party co-founder, who was arrested at LaGuardia airport along with another 700 hundred other airline passengers over the last few years. Meckler informed the ticket agent of his locked-up firearm (as required by federal law) and was promptly arrested by Port Authority officers and charged with felony gun possession and thrown in jail. This revenue generating scam works flawlessly at New York’s LaGuardia airport.
Sounds reasonable, right?
This reporter investigated the guidelines from TSA and the airlines for transporting firearms. An American Airline employee described the outbound (LaGuardia) procedure for transporting a firearm commenced with a call to TSA to confirm the legality of the passenger’s firearm paperwork; TSA would ensure the firearm was locked in a hard case with no ammunition in the chamber; and finally TSA inspectors would store the firearm in the owner’s checked luggage in a TSA-approved, locked firearm case, and it’s off to New York.
This reporter decided to take it a step further and asked what the procedure would be for boarding the plane on the return flight back to sunny California. The agent replied, “The exact same process would be implemented at LaGuardia Airport.”
This due diligence concurred with the instructions at the TSA and airline websites.
Knowing LaGuardia was the destination, the agent did not mention “you had better checkout New York law, otherwise you risk losing your gun, being placed under arrest at the ticket counter, and thrown into jail, which, in addition to spending a few days in jail, will cost you thousands of dollars in penalties, legal fees, fines and additional travel expenses.
The “special treatment” New York City imposes on in-transit visitors legally carrying a firearm sparked a number of questions.
Phone call number two went to the New York Port Authority Police Department querying why the Port Authority Police get the first call when a passenger attempts to check in at the airline ticket counter? Other airports follow TSA rules and guidelines under the interstate firearm transportation section (18 USC §926A Interstate Transportation of Firearms), which stipulates that it is perfectly legal to travel by air with a firearm, as long as the passenger can lawfully possess a firearm at their FINAL destination.
A follow-up call to the San Diego Port Authority confirmed they had nothing to do with checking firearms for airlines. In fact, they said, “We are only called when TSA finds a firearm that is either undeclared or stored improperly.”
So why is the process of transporting a firearm not followed in New York? A New York Port Authority spokesperson explained that officers follow the protocol set by the NYC District Attorney.
“In New York City, it is illegal to possess a firearm at any time, unless there is special permission given by the city authorities,” said Al Della Fave of the Port Authority.
There it is, NYC officials claim to have worked-out an “arrangement” with TSA, the airlines and the Port Authority. They will relieve lawful gun owners of their Second Amendment right when they attempt to leave the city. (Of course their firearm is already in a locked TSA-approved and inspected case.)
New York’s draconian handgun laws take it a step further by granting the courts or police departments the power to confiscate an air traveler’s firearm, and perhaps more alarming, is the fact that law enforcement can and does destroy the weapon.
As it turns out New York City is a gun-free zone! Only permission granted by Mayor Bloomberg’s office can waive the strict firearms prohibition. This is something hundreds of travelers to or through New York City have learned the hard way. Many of these unfortunate gun owners have traveled through hundreds of airports declaring their weapons without arrest, but in New York City, they are arrested, charged with several felonies and thrown in the clink. The tab for the incarceration exceeds thousands of dollars.
However, if New York is truly interested in strict adherence to the city’s handgun law, why aren’t they arresting passengers lawfully carrying their firearm when they collect their luggage and try to leave the airport? TSA keeps a record on file alerting airline personnel to the fact a firearm is stored in checked luggage.
Neither the Port Authority Police nor District Attorney spokespeople could answer that question.
A career choice landed this guy in jail
There are plenty of careers that require possession of a firearm. Providing private security for high-profile clients is one such career.
Take Kain Guercci for example, he is the director of operations for Talon Executive Services, a company that provides security details for a wide variety of high-profile clients.
Like hundreds of other law abiding travelers, Guercci passed through New York’s LaGuardia airport without staying in the city, but declared his firearm at the ticket counter as he has done hundreds of times in the past. However, this time the airline ticket agent notified the Port Authority Police, instead of TSA, and Guercci spent 72 hours behind bars.
Guercci knew the strict New York rules and traveled via taxi to LaGuardia airport from Connecticut. He thought he was following the in-transit law. “There is no asterisk or notation that the (TSA) rules apply everywhere except New York City, where I did not spend the night,” he explained.
Thinking this was just a misunderstanding, “I called my boss, a former and well-respected Secret Service agent, who explained it must have been a mistake, sit tight, and I’d be out soon,” Guercci said.
His three-day nightmare included jail time with criminals who were arrested during a nighttime drug sweep. A visit by Secret Service associates of his boss to clear the “confusion” further fueled the preverbal fire when Guercci’s Queen’s jailers took cash from his wallet and handed it to him in front of his felony-drug dealer cellmates. “Let’s just say I had to use my survival skills to protect myself from those criminals.”
Authorities wasted no time and charged Guercci with a class C violent felony, which carries a 3 1/2 to 15 years sentence, ensuring jail time.
Guercci said his three-day stint behind bars left him “shocked and utterly dismayed” with the New York legal entanglement. “I’ve never been arrested before.” After Guercci made it back to California, he was forced to notify the Orange County Sheriff of the incident and had his conceal carry permit temporarily revoked. “Luckily, I’m in good standing with the Sheriff and he was sympathetic to my New York ordeal.”
Fortunately, Guercci’s boss paid the considerable legal expenses and his conceal carry firearm permit was returned once all the court appearances and fines were paid. Guercci refers to the 72-hour ordeal as contrived and believes the New York firearm anomaly is “some sort of money-making racket for the New York’s law enforcement community.”
Criminal-defense lawyer Martin D. Kane points out on Lawyers.com; “What New York does is not helping matters. It’s pretty unreasonable, and it’s great fuel.” He goes on to explain that attorneys should not try to ‘defend’ these cases.
Kane said the specific law is clear and there is no room for negotiation (18 USC §926A Interstate Transportation of Firearms.
“The mistake some defendants and defense lawyers make is in fighting the charge and taking it to the point of indictment—and once they’re indicted, it’s impossible to workout a type of disposition that will have no consequence.” Kane concludes that it’s best to take a plea deal, pay the legal fees and fines, and never bring another firearm to New York.
While that may be sage advice, it has left many lawful gun owners tarnished as well as angry. Some legal experts suggest New York could face a legal entanglement of their own, by those who were wrongly arrested and their firearms destroyed.
The New York City’s DA declined to comment on cases involving Port Authority Police and lawful gun owners transporting firearms.
**Breaking--Stay tuned; Former White House party crasher, Michaele Salahi’s bodyguard, Richard Surrency, was nabbed at LaGuardia airport yesterday for possession of a firearm that was locked and stored in checked in luggage. According to TMZ.com, Surrency had a permit to lawfully carry a firearm when he was ensnared in Mayor Bloomberg’s anti-Second Amendment airport zone.
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