Non-violent possessory crimes can ruin lives. After decades of locking people up for the possession of marijuana, which even presidents and candidates like Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Gary Johnson have admitted to using, there has been a movement over the past decade to decriminalize and legalize the plant that has been consumed for millennia around the world.
Possessory crimes for guns have a similar story. In pre-Bruen may-issue jurisdictions like New York, it was basically impossible to legally buy and carry a gun, unless you were rich, influential, or willing and able to bribe the licensing apparatchiks. If you lived in a crime-ridden area and were reasonably worried about being victimized by criminals and gang members, your only option to protect yourself was to break the law and become a criminal yourself by carrying illegally.
Carrying illegally comes with its risks, and like a lot of laws, the enforcement falls disproportionately on poor, urban, black men. I wrote about this recently with links to raw videos of court trials in Detroit, Michigan. Permitting regimes need to be relaxed and come without “end user fees,” and the costs to operate them must come out of the government’s general revenue fund. But the law as it stands is still reality, and violating it comes with serious consequences, as a former Syracuse mayoral candidate learned the hard way (archived links):
Former Syracuse mayoral candidate Alfonso Davis guilty of criminal possession of a weapon in Rochester
by Matthew Saffer
Rochester, N.Y. — A judge has found former Syracuse mayoral candidate Alfonso Davis guilty of criminal possession of a weapon in a sensitive location. He is scheduled to be sentenced on January 10 in Monroe County Court.
Rochester police arrested Davis on Sept. 27, 2022 for attempting to bring a loaded semi-automatic weapon on board a flight at the Frederick Douglass Greater Rochester International Airport security checkpoint. At the time, Davis claimed he forgot he had the gun in his arm sling when he was stopped by TSA.
Security agents said they caught Davis with a concealed 9mm handgun loaded with 14 bullets at the TSA checkpoint. The gun was concealed in a sling, inches from the man’s hand, according to a TSA spokesperson. After his arrest, Davis told CNY Central he just had shoulder surgery and was on medication that may have influenced his thought process when he seemingly forgot about the gun he placed in his sling.
The circumstances of Mr. Davis’ arrest are weird to say the least. He was carrying a gun inside a sling through airport security. A sling as a holster is… unconventional? The gun was loaded with 14 rounds. New York bans magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds; older magazines were required to be permanently modified to limit their capacity, so that itself is a problem. Not even veterans with honorable service get exceptions (archived) to the possession of “large capacity” magazines.
Besides, carrying a gun through airport security is a serious no-no. Although TSA agents miss the majority of guns during screening, airports with security personnel and x-ray machines are as close to a “sensitive place” most people would find acceptable. Still, human forgetfulness is a real thing. Last year, even a Texas judge was busted for accidentally bringing a gun in her carry-on luggage.
Mr. Davis’ defense for attempting to carry through airport security is that he was on pain medication after shoulder surgery. Clearly, the trial judge didn’t buy that defense and found him guilty.
Mr. Davis may genuinely be guilty as the judge found, but that doesn’t discount that possessory crimes for guns must be done away with. Should a crime like his or the Texas judge’s for accidentally carrying through airport security mark a person for life as a prohibited person? Likewise, when 10+ round magazines are standard in most states in the country, a New York law banning them is irrational and unconstitutional.
As of this writing, 27 states are permitless carry states. With the governorship in Louisiana flipping, there’s a 28th state that’s likely going to become a permitless carry state. When a clear majority of states in the country are permitless carry, and also issue hassle-free permits to their citizens who want one, states like New York are the outlier. The burdensome training requirements, onerous fees, character references, interviews, psychological testing, and other bureaucratic and procedural hurdles don’t accomplish anything other than violate the Second Amendment.
I looked into Mr. Davis’ stances on guns as a mayoral candidate. He talked about economic development, vocational training, responsible fatherhood, and going after the shooters as solutions to firearms-related violence. I didn’t see anything about his support for gun bans or possessory crimes. Mr. Davis has been found guilty of a Class E felony, which in New York is the least violent felony. Still, it comes with a potential term of imprisonment of more than 1 year. That will make him a prohibited person. I wish him the best, and hope that others notice what happened to him and are careful about their compliance with the law, especially in places that bring extra scrutiny and harsher sentences.