John F. Kennedy (JFK) and LaGuardia (LGA) Airport Gun Cases

Perhaps among the most vexing criminal legal problems that Americans face when they visit New York center around New York’s draconian and uncompromising gun laws. This typically occurs when someone either flies into JFK International Airport, LaGuardia Airport, or when he or she visits the World Trade Center. All too often, law-abiding America citizens from outside of New York find themselves at the mercy of an awkward and politically charged situation when they bring their firearms with them to New York. Unfortunately, when an accusation like this transpires, an experienced New York City criminal defense attorney with particularized experience in airport gun cases is the only thing that can stand in the way of an unjust outcome.

When a person brings a legal firearm to New York, the results can be truly disastrous. What starts out as an innocent misunderstanding can quickly turn into a nightmarish scenario as New York prosecutors and police officers are out for proverbial blood even though the only real crime the person committed was they assumed New York’s overly harsh firearm statutes are inapplicable to them for various reasons. In these horrific situations, prosecutors and police officers, lacking nuance, choose to treat people from other states in the same way they’d treat hardened gangbangers, mobsters, or drug dealers.

If you are reading this, there is at least a somewhat decent chance that you are in exactly the same sad situation as countless others. You are probably a law-abiding and tax-paying American citizen who decided to bring his or her own firearm while visiting New York. That firearm is probably registered in your name and you have a valid permit issued by your home state that gives you the legal right to carry your firearm. Chances are you either flew into John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) or LaGuardia (LGA) or you were either visiting the 9/11 memorial or perhaps you had an interaction with law enforcement in which you told them you were armed. You probably thought you were not breaking the law and were unafraid in telling the authorities that you had a firearm on you. Unfortunately, you quickly discovered you were wrong as the police arrested you and treated you as a common criminal. As you probably stood before an unsympathetic judge, you probably asked yourself, “How did I get here?”

How you got where you are is as complicated as it is illogical. In a nutshell, the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives states “police power” to make laws regarding what is and what is not illegal. The framers of our Constitution envisioned a world where most criminal matters would be handled on the state and local level. Thus, the overwhelming majority of criminal cases are brought by state prosecutors in state courts. What is specifically illegal and what the appropriate punishment should be is therefore a state issue. That is why marijuana can be legal in Colorado (well, sort of anyway), but illegal in other states. It is also why New York has the legal right to make its gun laws as strict as they are.

To put it plainly, in New York, possessing a loaded and operable firearm outside of your home or place of business is codified in P.L. 265.03 and it is a class C violent felony. This means there is a 3 ½ year mandatory minimum prison sentence for a first time offender. This is applicable to everyone, irrespective of where they come from. To make matters worse, New York does NOT acknowledge permits to carry firearms obtained in other states. This means a valid licensed gun owner from Texas is just as guilty of possessing a firearm as the worst criminal in New York’s eyes. It simply does not matter that the gun is legal or that the owner is licensed. Nor does it matter if you flew into either JFK or LaGuardia and you went out of your way to make sure you complied with all TSA guidelines for flying with a firearm. The law simply does not care and neither will the police officer that arrested you, your prosecutor, or your judge.

Therefore, if you find yourself in this situation, you are at the mercy of a New York prosecutor who has the legal authority to prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law. You NEED an experienced New York criminal defense attorney who can exhaust all legal and professional remedies possible to get you the result you need. This includes not only making sure the prosecution is held to their burden, but making sure that they see you in the best possible light. Your lawyer could be the difference between going to state prison and getting the case dismissed. Do not hesitate to contact John Buza for a free consultation.