Antique guns may still be illegal in New Jersey, but a retired Cumberland County teacher won’t go to prison for carrying his.

Gordon VanGilder, 72, faced as much as a 10-year sentence for unlawful possession of a weapon for having a 300-year-old flintlock pistol during a Nov. 19 car stop, when he was a passenger.

He told the sheriff’s officers that he had the gun, and it was part of a collection of materials from the 18th century.

The officers let him return to his Maurice River Township home, but was arrested the next day.

While the charge did follow the letter of the law, Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae said she would use her prosecutorial discretion to drop the case.

“My client and I are very pleased that the prosecutor exercised her discretion wisely and we commend her for doing so,” attorney Evan Nappen said. “We're glad that the matter has been resolved.”

Nappen, who handles many NRA cases, said there are efforts by a number of legislators to get the definition changed to exclude antique firearms from the law.

“Hopefully the state will highlight the need to do that,” he said.

VanGilder was at risk of losing his pension as a result of the charge.

The man was relieved that the issue was now over, Nappen said.

Nappen also represented Shaneen Allen, a Philadelphia woman who was charged with possession of a weapon for having her gun with her during a traffic stop in Hamilton Township. While the gun was legally owned in Philadelphia, she said she didn’t know that it was illegal to take it across state lines.

The case made national news, when Allen was refused admittance into a pretrial intervention program that would allow her to avoid prosecution. But, after the attorney general released a clarification to the guidelines allowing for PTI, Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain allowed her into the program.

Contact Lynda Cohen:

609-272-7257

@LyndaCohen on Twitter

Reporter covering courts and crime

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