How police can take your guns and what you can do about it will be the topic of first-time NJ SAFE presenter Jef Henninger on Sept. 23 in Princeton.
Henninger, an attorney who took up firearms “at a very early age,” has won numerous Second Amendment cases. “My firearms practice focuses on many different issues beyond firearms-related crimes,” he explains. “About a third of my practice involves firearms issues. That can be permits, appeals, seizures, crimes and many other issues.”
A handful of recent cases of his illustrate the convoluted nature of New Jersey firearms laws:
• The actor and the ‘prop’ gun: “This was probably the biggest gun case in New Jersey in 2016,” Henninger explains. Carlo Bellario “was the actor in a movie holding what he thought was a prop gun. When it turned out it was not, he was arrested and charged with a crime. He was looking at prison time, but I was able to get the gun charge thrown out. He entered into a plea to other charges to avoid prison time.”
• The security guard: “This client worked as a security guard in the apartment complex that he lived at as a second job,” Henninger recalls. “From what I remember, he did this for a reduced rent. He was chasing after some kids that were lurking around in the dark, and one of them threw a gun on the ground. He picked it up and continued the chase.
“The police happen to be at the complex due to a firearm. They see my client and chase after him. My client thinks they are there to help so he keeps running. After a few seconds, he realizes they are after him, so he throws the gun on the ground and lies down so they can arrest him. He is charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and other charges for running from the police.
“The state wanted him to do prison time even though he had no criminal record. We had to take the case to trial. The jury acquitted him of all charges but hung on the possession charge. So even though they all believed his story, at least one of the members of the jury believed that my client should not have touched the gun at all. We later worked out a deal to keep him out of prison.
• The trucker making a brief stop in N.J.: “My client was driving a tractor trailer for his employer. Apparently, the employer wanted to fire my client for some unknown reason. He wasn’t planning on driving through New Jersey, but his employer had him divert from Pennsylvania into New Jersey to meet. The employer asked for the police to be there in the event that there was a problem. My client had his gun in the back of the truck for protection. When the police saw it, he was arrested. It took some work, but we got the charge 100 percent dismissed.”
• Another brief stop in N.J.: “My client was driving to visit some family, and he stopped in New Jersey for a just a few minutes to see a friend. Since his wife had the car, he walked from one friend’s house to another so they can go shooting. He had his gun in a bag. The police received a call about a burglary in the area so they stopped my client to ask him what’s in the bag. When he told them it was a gun, he was arrested. He has no prior felonies but is looking at five years in prison. We may wind up having to take it to trial. A number of motions are pending.”
Clearly, the stakes are high in gun rights battles on the horizon.
“One on hand, you have (N.J. gubernatorial candidate Phil) Murphy who will sign all of the anti-gun bills that get put in front of him,” Henninger says. “It’s going to get very ugly. On the flip slde, President Trump will sign whatever gun bills get in front of him. The problem is that the Republicans can’t get their act together, and Trump has his own issues. If there is another opening on the Supreme Court, can Trump get his nominee confirmed?”
If Murphy wins the Nov. 7 governor’s election, he “will destroy the few rights we have left. Our only hope is the Supreme Court or Congress to dial some of this back. If there are wins on the federal level, what will the Democrats in New Jersey do to fight against it? I’m sure they won’t give up. Look at marijuana legalization. Despite voters passing laws in several states, litigation has prevented any sales from starting.”
To attend presentations by Henninger and other top Second Amendment experts in New Jersey, register for NJ SAFE at njsafecon.net. Tickets are only $20.