LOCKPORT, IL - JULY 12: A customer looks over a .45 Caliber pistol at Rinks Gun and Sport in suburban Chicago on July 12, 2010 in Lockport, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Ryan Jerome was enjoying his first trip to New York City on business when the former Marine Corps gunner walked up to a security officer at the Empire State Building and asked where he should check his gun.
That was when Jerome’s nightmare began. The security officer called police and Jerome spent the next two days in jail.
The 28-year-old with no criminal history now faces a mandatory minimum sentence of three and a half years in prison. If convicted, his sentence could be as high as fifteen years.
Jerome has a valid concealed carry permit in Indiana and visited New York believing that it was legal to bring his firearm. He was traveling with $15,000 worth of jewelry that he planned to sell.
The online gun-law information Jerome read was inaccurate, however, and his late September arrest initiated what may become a protracted criminal saga. He hasn’t yet been indicted by a grand jury, but there may be little legal wiggle-room if he is.
“If he does get indicted, and they want to give him something less, then the legal minimum would be two years,” noted Mark Bederow, Jerome’s attorney. “They couldn’t even offer less if they wanted to.” (RELATED: The Daily Caller’s Guns and Gear section)
Jerome isn’t the first out-of-state visitor to volunteer that they had a gun, only to be put through the wringer. In December, Tennessee nurse Meredith Graves noticed a “no guns” sign at the World Trade Center site and asked where she could leave her weapon, only to face similar charges.
Also in December, Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler was arrested after attempting to check a pistol — for which he has a California concealed carry permit — at a New York airport.
The law in New York has the potential to wreak havoc on the lives of unwitting and otherwise law-abiding visitors, Bederow explained to The Daily Caller.
“The law itself is clear,” he said, “if you knowingly possess a loaded firearm in New York, then you are technically guilty of a serious crime. The fact that somebody in another state has a valid concealed carry permit is, legally speaking, irrelevant in New York.”
But the recent spate of tourist arrests wasn’t what was intended when the law was passed, said Bederow. “Subjecting the toughest gun laws in the country — here in New York — to subject these people to them is just not a good use of discretion.”
“The law is not equipped to deal with these situations, and they happen all the time,” he added. “Here are people trying to be responsible.”
There is a significant degree of uncertainty regarding how the case will proceed. Right now, Bederow said he’s hoping that the district attorney will use discretion and recognize that his client “is not a criminal.”
“I’ve been a law-abiding citizen my entire life, and for something like this to come down, it rips me apart,” Jerome told the New York Post. “It’s like taking a good dog and scolding him for something he didn’t do.”