Unfortunately for a man from Grand Junction Colorado, a lesson in New York State gun laws did not come early enough. Far from an atypical story, Dustin Forsling was jailed and lost his gun after he attempted to check his firearm with an airline attendant in Queens’ LaGuardia Airport. The unfortunate reality for Mr. Forsling, and anyone who carries a loaded firearm in the streets of New York City who is not specifically licensed in New York State to do so, prosecution has become more common. Compounding matters, the crime he or she will face, New York Penal Law 265.03 (Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree) is a “C” violent felony. Irrespective of your ignorance of the law or whether or not you had the intent to use the pistol or revolver in a violent way, the minimum sentence should you be convicted is three and one half years in state prison and the maximum is fifteen years in prison. This is the sentence for a first time offender.
Fortunately for Mr. Forsling, it is likely that his counsel convinced Queens prosecutors that although violent intent is not a necessary element of the crime charged, Mr. Forsling was and is a legitimate man with a legitimate out of state permit. There was no “evil” motive. Moreover, Mr. Forsling was not trying to conceal the weapon, but had it locked away properly and was attempting to check it with the airline. These factors certainly mitigated his otherwise innocent conduct (it is important to note, however, in New York State a firearm is considered loaded by law if it is capable of being loaded and the ammunition is not actually loaded into the weapon).
It is critically important that anyone traveling with a firearm to New York recognize that mere possession of that loaded weapon (remember, bullets need not be actually in the gun), can and will be charged with a felony. While Queens prosecutors are generally reasonable if a person was taking the proper steps to check the firearm at the airport (reasonable can be a relative term depending on your criminal history, proof of registration in your home state, your actions at the time of arrest, etc.), they will still seek bail to keep you in custody or send you to Rikers Island. If that wasn’t bad enough, if you travel to New York (Manhattan), the likely destination for all tourists, prosecutors are significantly more harsh and righteous in their prosecution of these crimes. In fact, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office routinely recommends or offers jail or state prison as a part of any plea. Obviously, in these cases, you have no choice but to battle.
As more and more of these type of firearm arrests and indictments take place, some individuals have considered litigation of New York State laws in connection to federal laws. How can having a validly registered firearm in one state be such a serious offense in another? How can one travel with a legal firearm in one’s home state to another state where the possession is also legal commit a crime by merely crossing through a third state where the legality of that possession is not recognized? Understandably, most people do not raise their hands high to be the “test case” to challenge New York law.
In depth information on New York gun crimes and firearm laws can be found both on the Saland Law PC website as well as the New York Criminal Lawyer Blog (NewYorkCriminalLawyerBlog.Com). Founded by two former Manhattan Assistant District Attorneys, the New York criminal lawyers at Saland Law PC represent those accused of and arrested for weapon crimes throughout the New York City region.
* Jeremy Saland commented on this story for Grand Junction’s KJCT TV