Guns and Gear

NY state of mind: Gun amnesty for criminals, felony charges for unwitting Marine

Steven Nelson Associate Editor
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Ryan Jerome was arrested and charged with felony gun possession in September during a visit to New York, after unknowingly violating the state’s tough gun laws. As charges pend against the Indiana resident, real-life criminals are permitted to sell illegal weapons to the city for cash, no questions asked, through a taxpayer-funded program.

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, whose office is prosecuting Jerome, proudly promotes the “buyback” initiative.

Jerome’s criminal saga began when he visited New York City with thousands of dollars worth of jewelry that he intended to sell. Jerome, once a U.S. Marine and now a jeweler, brought a gun for protection, mistakenly believing that New York would honor his Indiana concealed carry permit.

After voluntarily asking security personnel at the Empire State Building if he could check the gun, he was arrested — for the first time in his life — and spent two days in jail. (RELATED: Marine faces 15 years behind bars for unknowingly violating gun law)

Jerome’s attorney, Mark Bederow, released correspondence with the district attorney’s office this week, revealing that the government has offered Jerome a reduced charge — a Class A misdemeanor with a $1,000 fine and 10 days of community service.

But Bederow and Jerome are interested in a full dismissal of the case, not a mere reduction in the charges.

While the felony charges hang over Jerome’s head, the city is perfectly willing to accommodate gun owners of a more nefarious persuasion.

New York City offers cash for illegal, unregistered guns. Anyone can drop off such a weapon and walk away with a fistful of cash — and immunity from prosecution.

On Vance’s campaign website, the prosecutor proudly shares his vision for gun amnesty.

“My plan calls for increasing the use of amnesty programs to allow the delivery of firearms to appropriate authorities without fear of prosecution,” says Vance. “This will cost money, but the greatest cost is to fail to employ an amnesty program that saves lives.”

Approximately one month after Jerome was arrested, the DA’s office hosted a “Gun Buyback” day on October 22. “Individuals will receive $200 bank cards for turning in operable handguns and $20 bank cards for operable rifles and shotguns, no questions asked,” said a press release from Vance’s office.

A subsequent press release issued by Vance’s office noted that the “cash for guns” day, co-sponsored by the New York Police Department, had yielded 139 illegal weapons. There was no mention of whether any of the guns had been stolen, or if they were connected to violent crimes.

Bederow told The Daily Caller he finds it ironic that criminals can trade guns for cash while his client faces a criminal record for voluntarily bringing his weapon to the attention of security officers at a tourist attraction.

“Perhaps nothing supports dismissal more than the absurdity that Ryan had a better chance of avoiding prosecution (and gaining $200) by simply walking up to a police precinct and falsely claiming that he wished to surrender an illegal gun,” said Bederow. (SEE ALSO: The Daily Caller’s Guns and Gear section)

In February, New York City Councilman Daniel Halloran told TheDC he believed that Vance should drop the charges against Jerome. And during an appearance on WOR radio Wednesday evening, former New York Democratic Gov. David Paterson also called on Vance to forgo prosecution.

Jerome’s case is hardly unique. New York City police have arrested several out-of-state tourists under similar circumstances. In December a Tennessee nurse was arrested after noticing a “no guns” sign at the site of the World Trade Center and asking where she should leave her weapon. That same month, Tea Party Patriots leader Mark Meckler was arrested at an airport after attempting to check a gun for which he had a California permit.

A bill passed by the House of Representatives in November would make what Jerome did perfectly legal, by requiring states to honor other states’ concealed carry permits. It passed with broad bipartisan support, despite “no” votes from downstate New York Republican Reps. Michael Grimm, Bob Turner and Peter King.

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Steven Nelson