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NYC courts continue to “shakedown” legal gun owners at airports

Only in New York City could three separate law enforcement agencies obfuscate responsibility for upholding gun laws and resort to finger pointing as their defense shamelessly robbing the public under color of the “rule of law.” Not surprisingly, the Second Amendment receives an inordinate amount of attention, but not much legal scrutiny from self-serving New Yorkers and the entities they represent.

New York authorities rely on the honesty of air travelers transiting through the state with lawfully owned firearms, who become victims upon disclosure under Federal law of their weapon possession, to create a well-oiled, gun-eating, revenue-raising machine. New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg’s interpretation of the Second Amendment nabs unsuspecting airline passengers (hundreds have been ensnared the past few years) jails and fines them.

New York City is a gun-free zone, and one requires permission from Bloomberg’s administration to carry a weapon within the city– and that permission rarely happens. For security purposes the City often relies on the service of off-duty or retired NYPD to keep the peace in the bustling metropolis of the Big Apple. However, unsuspecting travelers at area airports are apprehended for simply passing through this City to their final destination where it is lawful to have a firearm in their possession.

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Combine these heavy-handed tactics with the Department of Justice (DOJ) policy of suing states for laws it favors and Americans have a new recipe for dictatorial leadership. Lately, Attorney General Eric Holder has been in the business of suing individual states for allegedly trumping federal law, most notably illegal immigration and voting laws. While the DOJ picks and chooses its causes, they have chosen to let New York’s Port Authority Police seize lawfully owned firearms from travelers at its airports.

After 9/11, the U.S. government set up a number of safety measures to protect air travelers, and as a result they created the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) as the federal overseer of airport security. TSA is in charge of security at most major U.S. airports—except New York, which has hijacked control from local TSA agents.

New York City’s firearms interdiction and enforcement interferes with the airport security chain of command. It is here the finger pointing starts and the doubletalk reigns supreme.

The responsibility and non- responsibility approach

This reporter’s recent visit to TSA’s Washington DC headquarters seeking a resolution of this jurisdictional conflict yielded no answers. A phone conversation in the lobby went something like this; “Hi, I’m the reporter from California who has been talking to you via the phone regarding the security measures at LaGuardia Airport and wanted to clarify a few things. Do you have a minute?”

TSA spokesperson Greg Soule then replies; “Sure.”

This reporter answers; “Great, I’m in the lobby can you come down and meet me, I only need 5 minutes?”

Mr. Soule replies; “Aaa… well… actually I can’t come down, but I can refer you to our website.”

Wow, it’s an interesting strategy the TSA employs at their DC headquarters. Another phone call to TSA spokesperson Mike McCarthy confirms TSA is indeed in charge of airport security. Great news. Finally someone can explain why New York City’s Port Authority Police shows up at the ticket counter and arrests travelers when they attempt to check in their TSA-approved locked and unloaded firearm’s cases into checked baggage. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, and Mr. McCarthy says there must be a “special agreement” to supersede TSA’s authority.

A “special agreement” explanation leads to the New York Port Authority Police. A call to Port Authority’s Press Officer Al Della Fave yields a similar response, and he explains the officers at the airports are only doing what they are told. And it is Mr. Della Fave’s understanding that Port Authority Police have some sort of “special agreement” with New York’s legal community (Bloomberg and/or District Attorneys) and Port Authority officers are only following orders.

Fair enough, rank-and-file officers are pretty good about following orders, and there is no indication that this case is any different in New York.

The next phone call is to the Queen’s County District Attorneys office that prosecutes the lawful firearm owners, travelling with their guns locked up and stored as per federal law and TSA requirements.

So far, the common denominator with all the agencies is the explicit “special agreement” and if there were a document out there, surely the District Attorney’s office would have a copy of the document.

“I have checked with our executive staff and there is no Memorandum of Understanding between the District Attorney’s Office and either the TSA or Port Authority Police Department,” said Kevin R. Ryan, director of communications for the Queens County District Attorney’s office.

So, the DA is admits that there is no “memo” or “special agreement” between the Queen’s County District Attorney’s office, New York Port Authority Police and the TSA that justifies Port Authority Police supersede federal law at their airports. Normally, Federal law requires some sort of Memo of Understanding (MOU) between states and municipalities as currently TSA regulates the interstate transportation of firearms.

Knowing New York City has the nation’s toughest gun laws (after a ton of research) it appears New York City is serious about keeping the city a gun-free zone. Again, fair enough, but if New Yorkers are so concerned about firearms entering their jurisdiction, then why aren’t they apprehending the lawful gun owners as they leave the airport with their firearms in their luggage? TSA keeps a record of all firearms that passengers carry in their “checked” luggage. One would assume law enforcement wouldn’t want those firearms on the city sidewalks, right?

“While I cannot speak on behalf of the TSA, I can tell you that we have never been notified by the TSA of somebody traveling to New York with a weapon. The most likely reason is that the TSA would not be aware of the person’s licensing status in New York,” Ryan went on to explain.

However, TSA confirms they keep a record of all firearms and haven’t been asked by the DA’s office for notification.

The frustration continues, and nobody is taking responsibility or providing constructive answers for those who travel through New York.

Determined to get to the bottom of this issue this reporter called the airline ticket counter at LaGuardia Airport to set the record straight. The call goes something like; “Hi there I’m calling to find out what process I can expect when I get to the airport today. I left California and traveled to New Jersey through LaGuardia with my firearm, which I’m licensed to carry and is stored in the TSA-approved case. I’m headed back later today and wanted to know if there was anything I should be aware of or if I need extra time at the ticket counter?” The American Airline representative, Ty (no last name, security she says), replies; “Nope, it’s the same process in all airports.”

Except it’s not. Had a lawful gun owner followed that due diligence they’d be facing felony gun charges in the City of New York. It seems odd that the airline employees don’t know the rules because once a traveler presents a locked-up firearm at an airport ticket counter in New York for check in, as required by TSA, LaGuardia airline personnel call Port Authority NOT TSA, who immediately arrests the unsuspecting traveler.

Ryan explains that his boss, District Attorney Richard Brown; “has called upon the airlines to warn travelers of their responsibility to check local gun laws. Many airlines when asked by a passenger about transporting a weapon will only inform them of federal regulations with no mention of the need to check local laws. It is therefore incumbent upon passengers to acquaint themselves with the weapon laws of the jurisdiction that they are visiting and to comply with any and all legal requirements if they choose to travel with a weapon.”

Yet, nobody this reporter called mentioned anything about arresting travelers as they try to leave from a New York airport. It’s also worth noting that there is nothing mentioned on the airlines or TSA’s websites indicating that if travelers pass through New York they need to make alternate plans for checking in a firearm upon departure.

Consequences of due diligence

For the hundreds of passengers ensnared in New York City’s harsh firearm rules, there is little recourse for an individual. However, several attorneys, including Dick Heller (who was successful in taking on the Washington DC politicos and eventually won a Supreme Court case regarding the right to own a firearm) said at a Washington DC dinner that a class-action lawsuit might be in order to reign in New York’s firearm laws.

As far as the New York legal community is concerned, the law is the law, and until somebody challenges the legal standing, the arrests will continue to take place at the airports.

Ryan explained the law in a matter-of-fact tone that “when a visitor to our city is arrested, particularly at our airports, for possessing a weapon, there are several factors we consider in fashioning an appropriate disposition — including, but not limited to, was the weapon legally obtained, does the individual possess a valid permit in their home state, the duration of their stay in our city and, in airport cases, whether the individual voluntarily disclosed the weapon to authorities. In adjudicating such cases, there must be a balance between our obligation to protect our citizens and an individual’s error in judgment. Over the years, we have struck that balance well in ensuring that justice is served and maintaining our state’s tough, successful gun laws.”

Fairness in New York requires the defendant to pay a fine, court fees and let authorities destroy their legally owned firearm. If defendants follow this sage advice, the judge’s gavel will fall, and they will not serve any jail time. For the court’s trouble, the defendants will pay approximately $10-15 thousand in fees/fines.

One last fact for New Yorkers to consider with their so-called successful “tough gun laws.” is that while New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his District Attorney offices praise their “toughest in the nation” firearm laws, firearm crime statistics portray a different picture.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the most recent handgun crime statistics indicates New York has witnessed an increase of firearm related crimes despite the state’s tougher laws.

Keeping this in mind 2nd Amendment groups, like Calguns, say New York may be infringing on gun rights. “Look if you are staying in New York City, gun owners must comply with the cities gun laws, but if you are simply passing through it would seem NYC is over-stepping the Second Amendment,” Jason Davis an attorney for Calguns said.

Davis along with other citizens who have been charged with felonies, suffered the wrath of New York’s tough gun laws, contend the entire process is nothing more than a money-making business for the Port Authority Police, New York courts and area lawyers that represent those ensnared at airport ticket counters.

Criminal-defense lawyer Martin D. Kane points out on Lawyers.com; “What New York does is not helping matters. It’s pretty unreasonable, and it’s great fuel.” He goes on to explain that attorneys should not try to ‘defend’ these cases and claims there is a legal process in place.

Nevertheless, Kane claims the specific law is clear and there is no room for negotiation (18 USC §926A Interstate Transportation of Firearms, notwithstanding the clear conflict between NYC and TSA regulations regarding the transportation of weapons.

Other NYC gun-related cases

Two more NYC gun cases settled this week involving a medical student, Meredith Graves of Tennessee and a retired U.S. Marine Ryan Jerome of Indiana.

Graves attorney, Daniel Horwitz spoke to media after he successfully reduced the felony gun charge to a misdemeanor. “She’s happy that this ordeal is over, and she’s looking forward to getting on with her life and her career as a doctor,” he told The New York Post.

The former Marine, Jerome’s case also settled this week. After his arrest, Jerome decided to fight the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and beat the felony gun charge, but changed his mind midway through the battle and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor weapons-possession charge in an effort to avoid a three and a half year jail sentence, according to a New York Times story.

While New York City continues to enforce its over-reaching gun laws, it’s up to gun owners to follow the rules, recognize a problem exists in NYC and use legal channels afforded to them to change the Big Apple’s anti-Second Amendment seizures. When a state impedes on Constitutional rights, it has a chilling effect on law-abiding citizens and the last resort necessary is for Lady Justice (Supreme Court) to return the rights’ to the people, just as the founders intended.

To read three other NYC gun-related stories link here; http://www.examiner.com/homeland-security-in-national/unwitting-airline-passengers-robbed-of-their-second-amendment-rights-nyc

And here; http://www.examiner.com/homeland-security-in-national/nypd-frisks-searches-and-violates-civil-liberties-daily

And here; http://www.examiner.com/homeland-security-in-national/new-york-city-1-us-constitution-0-nyc-profits-from-seizures-of-legal-guns

For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/homeland-security-in-national/kimberly-dvorak

© Copyright 2012 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.

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Unwitting airline passengers robbed of their Second Amendment rights’ in NYC

The legality of owning firearms resides firmly in the founding fathers’ crafting of the Second Amendment, but a patchwork of state and municipal gun laws threaten to undermine a citizen’s right to keep and bear arms.

Nowhere is the assault on the Second Amendment more evident than in New York City where unsuspecting airline passengers are winding-up in jail after running afoul of Mayor Bloomberg’s interpretation of the Second Amendment. The NY mayor’s dislike of firearms is well known, and he even formed an “anti-gun” taskforce. The three-term Mayor even tried to peddle his anti-gun program to Arizona, after a psychologically unstable person shot Rep. Gabriel Gifford’s. Perhaps, most recently readers may remember Bloomberg’s anti-gun commercial that aired during this years’ Super Bowl.

Bloomberg’s law or tourist trap, recently ensnared Mark Meckler, Tea Party co-founder, who was arrested at LaGuardia airport along with another 700 hundred other airline passengers over the last few years. Meckler informed the ticket agent of his locked-up firearm (as required by federal law) and was promptly arrested by Port Authority officers and charged with felony gun possession and thrown in jail. This revenue generating scam works flawlessly at New York’s LaGuardia airport.

Sounds reasonable, right?

This reporter investigated the guidelines from TSA and the airlines for transporting firearms. An American Airline employee described the outbound (LaGuardia) procedure for transporting a firearm commenced with a call to TSA to confirm the legality of the passenger’s firearm paperwork; TSA would ensure the firearm was locked in a hard case with no ammunition in the chamber; and finally TSA inspectors would store the firearm in the owner’s checked luggage in a TSA-approved, locked firearm case, and it’s off to New York.

This reporter decided to take it a step further and asked what the procedure would be for boarding the plane on the return flight back to sunny California. The agent replied, “The exact same process would be implemented at LaGuardia Airport.”

This due diligence concurred with the instructions at the TSA and airline websites.

Knowing LaGuardia was the destination, the agent did not mention “you had better checkout New York law, otherwise you risk losing your gun, being placed under arrest at the ticket counter, and thrown into jail, which, in addition to spending a few days in jail, will cost you thousands of dollars in penalties, legal fees, fines and additional travel expenses.

The “special treatment” New York City imposes on in-transit visitors legally carrying a firearm sparked a number of questions.

Phone call number two went to the New York Port Authority Police Department querying why the Port Authority Police get the first call when a passenger attempts to check in at the airline ticket counter? Other airports follow TSA rules and guidelines under the interstate firearm transportation section (18 USC §926A Interstate Transportation of Firearms), which stipulates that it is perfectly legal to travel by air with a firearm, as long as the passenger can lawfully possess a firearm at their FINAL destination.

A follow-up call to the San Diego Port Authority confirmed they had nothing to do with checking firearms for airlines. In fact, they said, “We are only called when TSA finds a firearm that is either undeclared or stored improperly.”

So why is the process of transporting a firearm not followed in New York? A New York Port Authority spokesperson explained that officers follow the protocol set by the NYC District Attorney.

“In New York City, it is illegal to possess a firearm at any time, unless there is special permission given by the city authorities,” said Al Della Fave of the Port Authority.

There it is, NYC officials claim to have worked-out an “arrangement” with TSA, the airlines and the Port Authority. They will relieve lawful gun owners of their Second Amendment right when they attempt to leave the city. (Of course their firearm is already in a locked TSA-approved and inspected case.)

New York’s draconian handgun laws take it a step further by granting the courts or police departments the power to confiscate an air traveler’s firearm, and perhaps more alarming, is the fact that law enforcement can and does destroy the weapon.

As it turns out New York City is a gun-free zone! Only permission granted by Mayor Bloomberg’s office can waive the strict firearms prohibition. This is something hundreds of travelers to or through New York City have learned the hard way. Many of these unfortunate gun owners have traveled through hundreds of airports declaring their weapons without arrest, but in New York City, they are arrested, charged with several felonies and thrown in the clink. The tab for the incarceration exceeds thousands of dollars.

However, if New York is truly interested in strict adherence to the city’s handgun law, why aren’t they arresting passengers lawfully carrying their firearm when they collect their luggage and try to leave the airport? TSA keeps a record on file alerting airline personnel to the fact a firearm is stored in checked luggage.

Neither the Port Authority Police nor District Attorney spokespeople could answer that question.

A career choice landed this guy in jail

There are plenty of careers that require possession of a firearm. Providing private security for high-profile clients is one such career.

Take Kain Guercci for example, he is the director of operations for Talon Executive Services, a company that provides security details for a wide variety of high-profile clients.

Like hundreds of other law abiding travelers, Guercci passed through New York’s LaGuardia airport without staying in the city, but declared his firearm at the ticket counter as he has done hundreds of times in the past. However, this time the airline ticket agent notified the Port Authority Police, instead of TSA, and Guercci spent 72 hours behind bars.

Guercci knew the strict New York rules and traveled via taxi to LaGuardia airport from Connecticut. He thought he was following the in-transit law. “There is no asterisk or notation that the (TSA) rules apply everywhere except New York City, where I did not spend the night,” he explained.

Thinking this was just a misunderstanding, “I called my boss, a former and well-respected Secret Service agent, who explained it must have been a mistake, sit tight, and I’d be out soon,” Guercci said.

His three-day nightmare included jail time with criminals who were arrested during a nighttime drug sweep. A visit by Secret Service associates of his boss to clear the “confusion” further fueled the preverbal fire when Guercci’s Queen’s jailers took cash from his wallet and handed it to him in front of his felony-drug dealer cellmates. “Let’s just say I had to use my survival skills to protect myself from those criminals.”

Authorities wasted no time and charged Guercci with a class C violent felony, which carries a 3 1/2 to 15 years sentence, ensuring jail time.

Guercci said his three-day stint behind bars left him “shocked and utterly dismayed” with the New York legal entanglement. “I’ve never been arrested before.” After Guercci made it back to California, he was forced to notify the Orange County Sheriff of the incident and had his conceal carry permit temporarily revoked. “Luckily, I’m in good standing with the Sheriff and he was sympathetic to my New York ordeal.”

Fortunately, Guercci’s boss paid the considerable legal expenses and his conceal carry firearm permit was returned once all the court appearances and fines were paid. Guercci refers to the 72-hour ordeal as contrived and believes the New York firearm anomaly is “some sort of money-making racket for the New York’s law enforcement community.”

Criminal-defense lawyer Martin D. Kane points out on Lawyers.com; “What New York does is not helping matters. It’s pretty unreasonable, and it’s great fuel.” He goes on to explain that attorneys should not try to ‘defend’ these cases.

Kane said the specific law is clear and there is no room for negotiation (18 USC §926A Interstate Transportation of Firearms.

“The mistake some defendants and defense lawyers make is in fighting the charge and taking it to the point of indictment—and once they’re indicted, it’s impossible to workout a type of disposition that will have no consequence.” Kane concludes that it’s best to take a plea deal, pay the legal fees and fines, and never bring another firearm to New York.

While that may be sage advice, it has left many lawful gun owners tarnished as well as angry. Some legal experts suggest New York could face a legal entanglement of their own, by those who were wrongly arrested and their firearms destroyed.

The New York City’s DA declined to comment on cases involving Port Authority Police and lawful gun owners transporting firearms.

**Breaking–Stay tuned; Former White House party crasher, Michaele Salahi’s bodyguard, Richard Surrency, was nabbed at LaGuardia airport yesterday for possession of a firearm that was locked and stored in checked in luggage. According to TMZ.com, Surrency had a permit to lawfully carry a firearm when he was ensnared in Mayor Bloomberg’s anti-Second Amendment airport zone.

For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/homeland-security-in-national/kimberly-dvorak

© Copyright 2012 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved

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