[UPDATE: As of March 13, New Jersey has, rightly, dismissed the case against Mr. Twyne described in this article. As his lawyer Evan Nappen writes on his website, "We now fight to get Mr. Twyne's firearm returned, licenses protected, and reputation restored. This includes fighting the tinted windows motor vehicle offense, which is known to be used as a pretext excuse for motor vehicle stops."]
Every petty excuse for the police to bother you is a loose trigger for further injustice. Roosevelt Twyne, a 25-year-old security guard who is African American, is learning this in New Jersey.
Pulled over last month on his way home from work in Roselle Park, New Jersey, for having tinted windows on his car, Twyne informed the police he had his work-related weapon in his possession. The police arrested him, claiming he was carrying both an illegally transported gun and illegal hollow-point ammunition.
According to Twyne's lawyer, Evan Nappen, Twyne had a permit to carry a gun in the state. Nappen insists that permit should have covered the alleged illegality of transporting the weapon in his car. Nappen further points out the brand of ammunition in the car—supplied by his employer—is specifically listed as legal on a New Jersey State Police website.
Nappen said in a phone interview yesterday that the police have come around about the ammunition, and those particular charges have been dropped.
However, Twyne still faces potential prosecution for the weapon charge.
The police insisted to Fox News that "Twyne was charged after it was determined that he was not in compliance with the specifications of the law pertaining to the lawful transportation of his firearm. These charges were approved by the Union County Prosecutor's Office."
The police said in a statement provided to a local TV station that Twyne had his weapon loaded and holstered on his person. Nappen says in an email that a legal requirement to "have a firearm cased and unloaded" under New Jersey statute 2c:39(6g) applies only if one is "transporting by way of exemption, which is inapplicable here. Mr. Twyne was transporting by way of his Chapter 58 NJ Permit to Carry a Handgun, not by way of inapplicable exemptions."
Twyne is being charged under 2C:39-9(d), which states that:
Any person who manufactures, causes to be manufactured, transports, ships, sells or disposes of any weapon, including gravity knives, switchblade knives, ballistic knives, daggers, dirks, stilettos, billies, blackjacks, metal knuckles, sandclubs, slingshots, cesti or similar leather bands studded with metal filings, or, except as otherwise provided in subsection i. of this section, in the case of firearms if he is not licensed or registered to do so as provided in chapter 58, is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree.
Nappen insists that Twyne "has a NJ Permit to Carry a Handgun issued pursuant to Chapter 58" which applies to both his job and getting to and from his job, and does not require the gun to be cased and unloaded as it would if he were merely carrying under a set of statutory exemptions to the laws about possessing handguns.
Jersey gun laws are "very confusing," Nappen grants, and it "is very difficult for citizens, police, and even prosecutors" to figure out what is and isn't legal (not much is) because of "stupid gun laws."
Nappen, who specializes in the state's gun laws, insists he understands things the police and prosecutors bedeviling Twyne do not. "The government is attempting to conflate legally irrelevant requirements under exemptions that do not apply" to a permit-holder like Twyne.
New Jersey's carry laws can be tough to figure out for Americans doing their best to comply and have led to serious disruption to the lives of people who have done no harm. Two notorious cases are indicative of this: Shaneen Allen, an African American single mother of two who was naive enough to think being licensed to carry in her native Pennsylvania would protect her from Jersey cops (and who only evaded jail after huge public outcry), and Brian Aitken, who was sentenced to seven years for having a legally owned gun unloaded and locked in his trunk because it was legally owned in a state that wasn't New Jersey (he thankfully had his sentence commuted after a few months by Gov. Chris Christie).
Twyne has been charged with a 4th-degree felony, which could come with 18 months in prison.
Whether or not Twyne is vindicated by the law as Nappen insists he should and will be, this arrest—caused by a wicked combination of the police's nearly unlimited power to harass drivers and New Jersey's convoluted gun laws—has already seriously harmed Twyne, causing him to be suspended from his job, as he told Fox News. "It's a little hard right now trying to find something to keep me on my feet." He currently has a court date scheduled for April 2.