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Outrage Of The Week

Friday, April 2, 2010

This week's Outrage concerns a legal case that comes to us from New Jersey, where a well-meaning firearm owner, through a series of events that were no fault of his own, inadvertently ran afoul of the law (or, rather, an interpretation of the law).

Gun owner Gregg C. Revell was flying from Salt Lake City, UT, to Allentown, PA, by way of Minneapolis, MN, and Newark, NJ.  Revell had an unloaded firearm that was legally checked in his luggage, which he was to pick up upon his arrival in Allentown.

That was the plan, but things soon went awry.  Revell's flight into Newark was delayed, causing him to miss his connecting flight to Allentown.  He was able to book a seat on the next flight, but that course of action was changed by the airline. He then tried to take a bus, but his luggage didn't make it to the bus on time.  He retrieved his luggage, but missed the bus.  With no more connections to Allentown until the following morning, Revell went (with his luggage, of course) directly to, and stayed the night at, the Airport Sheraton Hotel.  By this time, Revell had been through a lot, but his real trouble was just beginning. 

The next morning, Revell returned with his luggage directly to the airport.  He checked his luggage and, as he was supposed to, told the agent that he had an unloaded firearm stored in a locked case in his luggage.  It was at this point that Revell's destination changed from Allentown to a Newark jail cell.  He was arrested on the spot because New Jersey law requires a permit to possess a handgun (and also bans the hollow-point ammunition that Revell also had in a separate locked container in his luggage), and as soon as Revell's luggage became "readily accessible" to him (in this case, when he took possession of his luggage to go to the hotel) he violated state law. 

The Firearms Owners' Protection Act (FOPA) states that, "Notwithstanding any other provision of any law or any rule or regulation of a State or any political subdivision thereof, any person who is not otherwise prohibited by this chapter from transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm shall be entitled to transport a firearm for any lawful purpose from any place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm to any other place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm if, during such transportation the firearm is unloaded, and neither the firearm nor any ammunition being transported is readily accessible or is directly accessible from the passenger compartment of such transporting vehicle: Provided, That in the case of a vehicle without a compartment separate from the driver's compartment the firearm or ammunition shall be contained in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console."

After spending four days in a Newark jail cell, Revell was released on bail. Revell was eventually cleared of all charges, but he didn't get his firearm and other property back until almost three years later.

With help from the NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund, Revell sued for damages related to his unjust arrest and detention (as a violation of his civil rights), but lost, with the U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit's finding that Revell was not covered under FOPA's narrowly defined safe harbor provision.

So we have a case where a firearm owner does everything he can to obey the law and ensure that he safely transports his firearm.  Through no fault of his own, he is accused of violating the law.  He is arrested, then thrown in the Newark jail for four days, and loses possession of his personal property for almost three years.  That is outrageous!

This case is not as unusual as you may think.  NRA presently has two similar cases awaiting rulings by the U.S. Second Circuit.

NRA members would be well advised to use caution when traveling with a firearm—especially by plane, and especially in the states of New York and New Jersey—if a planned, or unplanned stop in "hostile territory" is necessary.

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