In New Jersey, residents who want to transport firearms legally must request a permit from a local law enforcement office and produce a letter stating why it is necessary for them to carry a gun. In other words, New Jerseyans have to prove need before exercising what many Americans consider a constitutional right.
Twenty-seven-year-old Brian Aitken is learning that the hard way. Arrested in 2009 when police officers found two handguns locked and unloaded in the trunk of his car, Aitken was just sentenced in August to seven years in prison.
Now, protesters across the state are organizing a push for an appeal for the court’s ruling. A “Free Brian Aitken” Facebook page has almost 7,000 fans, the website briandaitken.com was built and a rally will be held Dec. 12, in Toms River, N.J. Aitken’s family is asking Chris Christie to grant clemency — gun control just might be the next test conservatives throw at the New Jersey governor.
A pardon from Christie is far from assured, even if he does have fairly established, conservative credentials.
During his 2009 campaign, he told Fox News host Sean Hannity, “Listen, at the end of the day, what I support are common sense laws that will allow people to protect themselves. But I also am very concerned about the safety of our police officers on the streets. Very concerned. And I want to make sure that we don’t have an abundance of guns out there.”
Nothing about Aitken’s past or history suggests he was a threat to the safety of police, or anyone else for that matter. After separating from his wife in 2008, Aitken moved from Colorado to his native home of New Jersey the end of that year, to be closer to his son.
Shortly thereafter, in January 2009, Aitken – according to one account – “became distraught, muttered something to his mother, and left his parents’ home in Mount Laurel, NJ,” after his ex-wife canceled a visit with their son.
At that point, his mother, who is a trained social worker, called the police out of concern. That’s when things went downhill for Aitken. After the police caught up with him, they determined he wasn’t a threat to his or anyone else’s safety, but proceeded to search his car anyway. Upon finding the guns, police pressed weapons charges against Aitken.
His family and supporters are arguing that not only did Aitken obtain the guns legally, but he was also exempted from New Jersey’s guns laws because he was simply moving residences. They also say the judge who tried the case, Justice James Morley, ignored supporting evidence of that.