New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has commuted the seven-year prison sentence of Brian Aitken, freeing the Garden State native in time for Christmas. Aitken was convicted of various weapons charges relating to a trio of handguns police discovered in his car in January 2009, along with hollow point bullets and “high capacity” magazines. Aitken had purchased the weapons and ammo in Colorado, to which he was planning on moving. His mother dropped the dime on Aitken, fearing that her son was suicidal following the break-up of his marriage. The cops pulled him over to check his mental health, searched his car and found the contraband. It was all downhill from there . . .
Aitken claimed he was in the process of moving [back] West when he was arrested. If true, Aitken would not have fallen afoul of NJ’s restrictive gun laws. Much.
Like Rhode Island, a New Jersey legal gun owner without a carry permit is only allowed to transport weapons to and from one residence to another, or to or from a gun range. If you stop for a cup of kawfee, you are violating the law. If you leave the guns unattended, you can be [Patrick] lynched on the spot. Kidding. A bit.
Aitken may have been intending on taking his guns back to the Centennial State at some point, but he was not en route to CO at the time of his arrest. Even so, the Judge in the case—since un-reappointed by Christie—screwed the proverbial pooch. Here’s a good description of Judge Morley’s malfeasance from mooserider123.blogspot.com.
Judge Morley wouldn’t allow Aitken to claim the exemption for transporting guns between residences. He wouldn’t even let the jury know about it. During deliberations, the jurors asked three times about exceptions to the law, which suggests they weren’t comfortable convicting Aitken. Morley refused to answer them all three times. Gilbert and Nappen, Aitken’s lawyers, say he also should have been protected by a federal law that forbids states from prosecuting gun owners who are transporting guns between residences. Morley would not let Aitken cite that provision either.
Christie’s clemency decree came amongst growing disgust with the young man’s incarceration. After all, Aitken wasn’t exactly a criminal. I mean, up to that point. It’s not clear where Aitken will live after his release. As Ralph points out below, Aitken remains a convicted felon. So no more guns for you bubala.
Perhaps I will live to see the day when America becomes a nation of constitutional carry. Until then, all gun owners should read their state’s law very carefully. Counting on a State pardon for a firearms violation is not a clever strategy, nor a likely event.