Civil Liberties

NJ Gun Laws That Made Man a Felon for a Paperwork Violation 'Need Serious Reform'

The Garden State has littered its law books with the statutory equivalent of booby traps.


Steffon Josey-Davis

Not that New Jersey needs another poster child for reform of its stupidly written and oppressively applied gun laws, but Steffon Josey-Davis has been conscripted to the cause anyway. The one-time armored car driver was arrested for carrying his legally owned pistol in his car. By all accounts, it was an innocent act, and certainly a harmless one. That's why the judge let him off with probation after a guilty plea to second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon. So now Josey-Davis is a convicted felon at home instead of a convicted felon behind bars. Which is better, but still insane.

Represented by gun rights attorney Evan Nappen, Josey-Davis is now challenging his prosecution. He's also petitioning Gov. Chris Christie for a pardon. At, he tells his story:

On September 20th, 2013,  I was planning to go to the gun range with a friend, and was in the garage checking my firearm when my 6-year-old sister walked in and surprised me. I have always tried to keep my firearm away from my younger siblings as to not spark their curiosity, so I quickly shoved it into my glove compartment before picking her up and taking her back inside the house.

Later that day, having been distracted by a chain of events, I got in my car, with my gun still in my glove compartment.  I was pulled over shortly after for a routine traffic stop. Immediately I realized my mistake; in NJ a loaded weapon must be carried in a locked trunk. I alerted the officers that I had a weapon in the car. They confiscated and told me I would be able to pick it up later that week, and I thought that was the end of it.

When I arrived at the police department, I was informed that I had been charged with weapons possession, a second-degree felony. Instantly my life changed.

Well, that's his version of events. What does Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey say?

Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey

"Describing his conduct as a simple mistake does not negate the seriousness of this law, which was created to protect police officers and the public," says Carey. The prosecutor also notes that "he did not possess a license to carry the weapon, which was seized as evidence."

Wait a minute. So even in Jerseystan, Josey-Davis's accidental transportation of a loaded pistol in his glove compartment rises to the level of criminal "seriousness" only if he doesn't have a carry permit, by the prosecution's own telling. So it's a paperwork violation. If you have the right piece of paper, it's all good. If you don't, it's a life-changing felony.

But, as it turns out, the armored car driver had applied for a carry permit, and it was pending. So if he had been pulled over a week or two later with the right piece of paper in his possession…

Does that conflation of paperwork and timing "negate the seriousness of this law"?

Or should we just admit that the Garden State has littered its law books with the statutory equivalent of booby traps? And that, as Nappen notes, "New Jersey's gun control laws are out of control. It's clearly evident they need serious reform." Preferably with fire.