For those considering spending some vacation time in New York City let me remind you to keep your handgun at home. Meredith Graves, a registered nurse from Tennessee visited more than Manhattan’s 911 Memorial during her stay in the Big Apple. She saw the inside of New York’s 43rd police precinct while being booked for illegally possessing a weapon.
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Graves has a license to carry a firearm in the state of Tennessee. New York State doesn’t recognize out-of-state gun permits. So, mistake No. 1 was toting her gun to New York City — though it’s not a bad idea when visiting the city that never sleeps. However, if she were a responsible gun permit holder she would have checked New York State gun laws and left hers at home.
Mistake No. 2 was declaring she had the .32 caliber pistol when speaking with a uniformed police officer on the New York City Police Department. Those boys don’t mess around with people with guns — especially Tennessee nurses with Southern accents.
The incident made national news and puts New York City in a difficult spot. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is pursuing a felony gun possession charge. It carries a minimum sentence of 3 ½ years. Because the law was originally targeted to keep handguns out of the hands of criminals it’ll be interesting to see how far the DA takes this.
Another interesting court battle to follow will be that of Ryan Jerome of West Bend, Ind. Jerome was arrested last September for carrying his .45 caliber Ruger, which was legally registered to him in Indiana. He was arrested when he approached security officers in the lobby of the Empire State Building. The sign reads “check all firearms before entering building” and he attempted to do just that. Instead he found himself in handcuffs.
He made the same mistake Nurse Nellie from Tennessee made. He should have skipped this tourist attraction altogether when he saw the sign.
The former Marine, now a jewel dealer who was carrying $15,000 in gold coins, made what his attorney called an “honest mistake.”
Regardless of the mistake, Mr. Jerome may face three and a half years in prison if convicted of carrying a weapon. Never mind the Second Amendment — it doesn’t exist in New York City. The former Marine may soon learn that fighting for freedoms Americans hold true and dear didn’t include the right to bear arms.
In fact, both of these gun-toting tourists should have boned up on their gun permits before leaving their respective states. If they did they would have realized their permits aren’t valid in New York State and several other states for that matter.
Of course this wouldn’t be an issue if Congress passes the National Right to Carry Reciprocity Act. The House voted last November in favor of providing a national standard for allowing non-residents with Carry and Concealed Weapons (CCW) permits to travel to other states. Needless to say in 2009 our two constitutional savvy senators voted “nay” to another such amendment proposing the same rights.
People have a right to keep and bear arms. That’s what the Constitution guarantees us. I don’t recall any references to exceptions like Manhattan, Washington, D.C., or San Francisco. I realize New York City is the melting pot of the world, but the last time I checked it was still in the United States. Or is it?
Besides police and tourists carrying handguns for protection in New York City it’s easy to assume everyone else is carrying illegally. Unless of course you factor in the hired guns celebrities like Oprah Winfrey employ as personal security guards. Oprah openly condemned gun ownership and advocated stricter gun laws for us common folks until we learned her security detail was armed. Maybe she knows something everyone else does. Criminals can care less about gun laws.
Richard Esposito is publisher of the Mountain Democrat. His column appears weekly.