Marine veteran Elizabeth Elderli is facing a possible prison sentence of up to 15 years for carrying two pistols for which she had concealed weapons permits to the entrance of the September 11 memorial in New York City, even though she voluntarily turned them over when she saw a sign saying they were not permitted.
Elderli learned the hard way that New York State does not honor concealed weapon and other gun permits issued by other states. She was arrested after security at the memorial discovered that she had a 9 mm pistol and a .380 caliber gun in her backpack on August 1. She had concealed weapon permits from her home state of Texas.
“She did what every responsible gun owner would do,” Elderli’s attorney, Amy Bellantoni, told FoxNews. “If she thought she was doing something wrong, she would have turned around and walked out. There’s absolutely no criminal intent here.”
She was in line at the memorial when she saw a “no firearms” sign at the checkpoint, and she then told the police officer about her guns. She thought her permit was valid, her attorney told FoxNews. In hindsight, she would have been better off to turn around and walk away upon seeing the sign.
Gun control groups, though, say Elderli is at fault.
“We hear a lot of rhetoric from the pro-gun movement about ‘responsible gun ownership,'” Ladd Everitt, communications director for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence told the news station. “Walking into the 9/11 Memorial with two loaded, semiautomatic handguns in a backpack isn’t it. We should also contemplate how paranoid someone has to be to think they need two handguns to visit a place of peaceful reflection in the 10th safest major city in the world.”
Said attorney Max Bederow, “It is true that out-of-state firearm owners should familiarize themselves with New York’s Draconian laws before coming to New York City.”
He added, “But district attorneys have a powerful tool — prosecutorial discretion — and need not criminalize honest mistakes by otherwise law-abiding citizens, especially veterans, who acted responsibly by disclosing their possession to appropriate authorities.
The story continues below the video
It is illegal in New York State to possess a handgun without an in-state pistol permit. New York City takes that one step further and requires that the permit be validated by the city.
“If she had known that New York did not recognize her license, she would have left it [the backpack] in a safe in the hotel,” Bellantoni said.
Elderli apparently conducted some research on New York gun laws before coming to the city and thought what she was within the law.
“She did what every responsible gun owner would do,” Bellantoni said of her client. “If she thought she was doing something wrong, she would have turned around and walked out.”
Beating a gun charge in New York can be difficult. In 2011, Bederow was unable to get similar charges again Marine Ryan Jerome dropped, although they were reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Elderli is not the first person to discover that a concealed carry permit can be worthless when crossing a state line. Pennsylvania resident Shaneen Allen spent 40 days in jail in Atlantic County, New Jersey, in 2013 because police, upon stopping her, found a pistol for which she had an out-of-state concealed carry permit. Allen faced a possible sentence of up to three years in prison and eventually was pardoned by Governor Chris Christie.
Do you believe gun owners like Elderli and Allen should be charged for gun possession? Share your thoughts in the section below