A Commentary By John Stossel
Have a gun license? Plan to bring your gun to my hometown? Don't.
Mean New York authorities will make your life miserable.
Patricia Jordan and her daughter flew here from her home state of Georgia. She wanted her gun nearby for protection.
Jordan obeyed all the Transportation Security Administration's rules: She put her gun in a locked TSA-approved case with its bullets separate. She informed the airline that she had a gun. The airline had no problem with that.
In New York City, she kept the gun locked in her hotel room. She never needed it, but her daughter told me, "I was glad she brought it just in case something did happen."
When leaving the city, Jordan followed the TSA's rules again. At the airline counter, she again told the agent she wanted to check her gun. But this time, she was told: "Wait."
"Next thing I know, they're getting ready to arrest me," she said.
Her daughter was crying, "Please don't arrest my mom!" But New York City cops arrested her, jailed her and told her she was guilty of a felony that mandates a minimum 3 1/2 years in jail.
Jordan's ordeal is not unique. Roughly once a week, New York City locks up people for carrying guns legally licensed by other states.
Another Georgia visitor, Avi Wolf, was jailed although he didn't even have a gun. He just had part of a gun -- an empty magazine -- a little plastic box with a small metal spring. He brought it to the city because it wasn't working well and he thought a New York friend might repair it. He couldn't believe he was being arrested.
"Somebody could've done more damage to an individual with a fork from McDonald's," Wolf told me.
Wolf, too, checked with the TSA beforehand. They said, just declare it to TSA agents. So he did.
"I'm telling them ... I have a magazine here. It's empty, no bullets ... Next thing I know they're pulling me over to the side, they're like, 'Do you know what you have in your bag?!' 'I know what I have in my bag, I told you what I have in my bag.'"
Following TSA instructions didn't do Wolf any good. "Fast forward about an hour and it was four Port Authority police there. The chief of LaGuardia airport is there, [as if] they thought they found somebody trying to do 9/11 repeat," he says.
"They asked me if I had a gun license. Of course I had a license. I'm from Georgia, and everybody there's got a gun license. And they're like, well, sir, you're going to be getting arrested now."
Wolf and Jordan spent less than a day in jail, but each had to pay lawyers $15,000 to bargain the felony charge down to "public disorder."
"We are not going to apologize for enforcing our gun laws," said Assistant District Attorney Jack Ryan when I confronted him about these pointless and cruel arrests. He said New York City enforces laws as "humanely and as compassionately as we can."
But the system is neither fair nor humane.
Patricia Jordan kept her bullets separate from her gun, as TSA regulations require.
"The officer could not even find my bullets in my suitcase. I had to show him where they were," she told me.
That didn't matter, said the DA, because the gun and bullets were in the same suitcase.
"Under New York law, if they're together, they're loaded," says Ryan.
"They're loaded even if they're not loaded?!" I asked. Yes, he said.
I called him a sadistic bully (the full video is at JohnStossel.com). He replied that New York City must make sure people are "not threats."
New York claims this keeps us safe. But people like Jordan and Wolf actually make us safer. Texas data shows licensed gun owners are seven times less likely to murder someone than a nonlicensed person. They also prevent some crimes. Nationwide, crime has dropped as the percentage of people with concealed handgun permits has risen.
Licensed gun owners aren't the problem. Crazy laws and callous prosecution are.
John Stossel is author of "No They Can't! Why Government Fails -- But Individuals Succeed." For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
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