Three unloaded, legally owned guns locked in the car trunk of a man moving from Colorado to New Jersey is keeping a man from watching his son grow up.
In New Jersey, they call that the rule of law.
Now, Brian Aitken is traveling the country, using the crowdfunding website Indiegogo to raise money and hoping to write a book about a travesty of justice that’s keeping him from his son.
Aitken was arrested in 2009 while returning to live in New Jersey to be near his son who lived with his ex-wife, according to a Daily Mail article. He had stopped at his mother’s home with a vehicle full of his belongings and she called 911 because she was concerned he was so distraught he might harm himself.
She hung up before the call was complete, but police responded anyway. By the time they did, Aitken had left, so police called him on his cell phone and — with a combination of threats and persuasion — convinced him to return to the scene.
Officers searched his car and found the weapons in the trunk, where Aitken said he’d been instructed to keep them for transport by the New Jersey State Police.
“I did exactly what they told me to do,” Aitken told the Daily Mail.
Regardless, police arrested him for violating the Garden State’s strict gun control laws, which prevent even legal owners of guns to have them in their possession outside of the home except under certain conditions.
After a trial that in Reason magazine’s description comes across as Kafkaesque – his jury seems to have wanted to acquit him but was essentially prevented from doing so by the judge – Aitken was sentenced to seven years in prison, but released after four months when his sentence was commuted by Republican Gov. Chris Christie. Even with the commutation, Aitken still spent his 27th birthday behind bars.
So Aitken is out of prison, but because his conviction was on a second-degree felony a family court has ruled he cannot see his son.
“After I was indicted of a victimless and violentless charge, with no prior criminal record, a family judge interpreted the charge to mean that I was a violent criminal with access to firearms and that fathers who own guns pose a threat to their children,” he said in a written statement to Ammoland.
Granted, some fathers who own guns probably do pose a threat to their children. Just as some fathers who don’t own guns can pose a threat to their children.
The real question is, did Aitken, who had no criminal record before the day his mother called the police hoping to make sure he was safe, ever pose a threat to anyone — much less to the son he moved half a continent to be with while he grew up?