Elderly Man Facing 10 Years Over Unloaded, Flintlock Pistol

Prosecutors want retired teacher to serve at least 3.5 years for possessing 250-year-old pistol

Elderly Man Facing 10 Years Over Unloaded, Flintlock Pistol

Image Credits: DavidMoss / Flickr


A retired teacher is facing 10 years in prison for having a 250-year-old, unloaded pistol in his car.

Gordon Van Gilder, 72, was charged with a felony in New Jersey after he told a Cumberland Co. sheriff’s deputy he had a flintlock pistol in his car during a traffic stop last November.

“It’s a mid-1700s flintlock, bonafide antique pistol unloaded, and yet he’s facing the same draconian penalty as if he had a .44 Magnum loaded on his person,” his attorney Evan Nappen told NRA News. “It doesn’t matter [to N.J.]; there’s no distinction.”

Van Gilder, a self-described historian, purchased the pistol as part of his collection of 18th century artifacts.

“He’s obviously no threat to anyone, and he’s facing up to 10 years in state prison with a minimum mandatory three-and-a-half to five years with no chance of parole because New Jersey’s modern handgun law includes antique handguns,” Nappen continued.

The prosecutor even told Nappen the state would have to perform ballistic testing on the black powder pistol, even though its smooth bore doesn’t leave a ballistic trace.

“Gordon’s case screams out for making New Jersey’s gun laws in comforming with federal law [because] federal law has antique firearms as an exemption,” Nappen said. “This should have never happened.”

“Discretion, what ever happened to discretion?”

It doesn’t exist in New Jersey.

In 2013, for example, a N.J. judge sentenced former police officer Dustin S. Reininger to five years in prison after he was arrested for carrying firearms in the back of his vehicle during his move from Maine to Texas.

Even though federal law provides safe passage for a driver transporting firearms through a restrictive jurisdiction such as N.J., the jury never heard about the law during Reininger’s trial.

An appeals court also claimed that the law didn’t apply in his case because the SUV he was driving did not have a trunk.

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