New Jersey usually takes the crown for being unforgiving when it comes to out-of-staters who travel with a gun. Brian Aitken and Brian Fletcher are two law-abiding gun owners whose names come to mind when you talk about non-residents who have run into legal problems for having guns in the Garden State.
But New York apparently doesn’t want to be outdone by its neighboring state when it comes to showing the world which state is the biggest, baddest kid on the block when it comes to enforcing its gun restrictions on visitors.
One of the recent cases in point involves Simeon W. Brovont, an 18-year-old from Idaho who, according to his municipal and state laws, legally owns a .22-caliber handgun. Earlier this year, Brovont drove to Indiana for a religious retreat, and he brought his gun with him lest he should run into any trouble on the road. He made some friends in Indiana, and the young adults drove to Western New York in June to attend a military air show and see Niagara Falls.
When pulling through the gate at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, a New York State trooper asked if any firearms were in the car. Brovont didn’t think twice about it before answering affirmatively that an unloaded .22 was in his car.
The honest admission would have raised few eyebrows in Idaho, but in New York it was enough to result in Brovont being arrested on the felony charge of possessing an unlicensed handgun. At his arraignment, he was jailed on $20,000 bail, which his parents couldn’t afford to pay. Thus, he spent the next few months awaiting dispensation of his case. Finally, in September, he pleaded to lesser charge of attempted second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, a felony that carries a maximum sentence of seven years.
A month later, when he appeared in court, a judge thought Brovont was coaxed into copping to too serious a charge. His travails finally came to an end when Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon made the point about Brovont being unduly persuaded to accept a plea and ruled that time served was enough of a penalty for the offense.
“I think he pled to too high a felony,” Sheldon said during the hearing, according to a report published in The Buffalo News earlier this month, after the prosecutor had argued for additional imprisonment. In arguing for longer jail time, the prosecutor said every law-abiding gun owner needs to make it a point to be familiar with the laws of the states they are traveling through, even if they end up driving into another state by mistake or on the spur of the moment.
What saved Brovont from more of a legal ordeal is that the assigned judge called upon her years of experience working in the law and realized the importance of taking things like Brovont’s family history into account when rendering a punishment.
The case serves as an example of just how difficult it is to navigate the maze of gun laws that change not only from state to state, but sometimes from jurisdiction to jurisdiction within a state.