A New Jersey gun owner is fighting charges for carrying a firearm for which he had a permit and ammunition state police have publicly said is legal.
Roosevelt Twyne, a 25-year-old African-American security guard, was arrested by Roselle Park Police in February after a traffic stop stemming from tinted windows on his car. Evan Nappen, Twyne's attorney, told the Washington Free Beacon that his client was then erroneously charged for illegally carrying a firearm and being in possession of so-called hollow point ammunition.
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"He was arrested for the hollow point ammunition," Nappen told the Free Beacon. "Then they claimed he was transporting his handgun illegally. He had a permit to carry a handgun. The law … makes it clear that it's illegal to transport unless you are licensed pursuant to chapter 58. And that is precisely what a handgun carry permit is."
Nappen said the ammunition that led to Twyne's arrest was the same ammunition issued by his employer. He also pointed to a New Jersey State Police website that says the polymer-tipped Hornady "Critical Duty" ammunition in question is "not considered to be hollow point ammunition" and not illegal to possess in the state—the website goes so far as to specifically name "Critical Duty" as an example of legal ammunition.
"It's lawful," Nappen told the Free Beacon. "It's publicly announced as lawful because it is. It's not hollow. It's filled."
Roselle Park police chief Daniel J. McCaffery did not return a request for comment. The Union County Prosecutor's Office did not respond to questions about the charges against Twyne but did say his case will be heard next month in New Jersey Superior Court.
The charges against Twyne are representative of the difficulties of navigating New Jersey's gun laws, which are among the strictest in the nation. They may also reveal issues in the police's understanding of the state's voluminous, complex gun restrictions. The case also shows how disruptive gun-related charges can be, even when the accused has a clean record and is not alleged to have done anything violent.
Twyne said he has not been able to work in nearly a month and his life has been turned upside down.
"Honestly, it's been traumatic and has impacted my life in a way that I've never experienced before," he told the Free Beacon in a statement. "It's hard because now even looking for a part time job or any job, it's made it so much harder for me. Not only has it tainted my name and reputation, which I have worked hard to attain, not just growing up in Elizabeth, but as a black man trying to make a difference."
Nappen said the three police officers, who were white, did not make any racist remarks during the arrest but said the issue of race is the "elephant in the room."
"They didn't make racist comments," he said. "They didn't say anything racist but, on its face, it's dubious. Let's just say it's dubious."
Many of the earliest gun-control measures instituted in the United States were directed at disarming African Americans and other minorities. Many "black codes" put into place throughout the South in the wake of the Civil War banned the ownership or carry of firearms by African Americans. Gun-control provisions targeted at African Americans or in response to their activism continued through the Civil Rights era.
Racial concerns over gun-control laws and their enforcement remain today. In 2018, the Department of Justice reported African Americans are most likely to be convicted of federal gun crimes and most likely to face jail time over those crimes.
The modern gun-control movement has also faced criticism for racially tinged policies and statements. Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor and prominent funder of gun-control groups nationwide who recently dropped out of the Democratic presidential primary, ran a controversial stop-and-frisk program that he said tried to keep people from carrying guns. The policy remained in place until 2013 when the program was drastically curtailed by a federal judge's ruling, which said it targeted "blacks and Hispanics who would not have been stopped if they were white."
Igor Volsky, executive director of gun-control activist group Guns Down America, came under scrutiny for saying the gun industry's efforts to sell firearms to minorities and women were "incredibly dangerous" last month. Maj Toure, an African-American gun-rights advocate, said "the overt racism of gun control rears its ugly head again" in response to Volsky's comments.
Whether or not race was a factor in Twyne's stop, Nappen said he should have been released without charges once police reviewed his gun-carry permit.
"Once they got all of his licenses, he's a block away from home and everything is clear now," he said. "You arrest him and put these charges on him? I mean, who is this person we're dealing with now? This isn't some gang banger that they've been trying to get forever and they finally can put something on him because he's such a danger to the public. This is a good guy. Licensed. He just showed you everything. He's not a danger to anybody. He's a good guy on our side. On the side of law and order. Why is he then subjected to the next phase with both the charges that are baseless?"
Nappen said Twyne's ordeal reminded him of former client Shaneen Allen, an African-American mother of two who spent two days in a New Jersey jail on gun-carry charges before being pardoned by then-governor Chris Christie (R.) in 2015. Allen, a Pennsylvania resident, was stopped by a New Jersey police officer for an illegal lane change while on her way to a birthday party for one of her sons. She was arrested and faced years of prison time for carrying a gun because New Jersey does not recognize her Pennsylvanian gun-carry permit—something she did not realize at the time.
"The difference with Shaneen is she made an honest mistake," Nappen said. "Mr. Roosevelt didn't make any mistakes. Shaneen was an injustice without a doubt but here even completely obeying the law you still become a victim of gun laws. It's ridiculous."
A crowdfunding effort to pay for Twyne's defense has raised nearly $5,500 from 189 donors as of Friday.
Twyne's case will be heard by Judge Robert Kirsch at 9 a.m. on April 2, according to the prosecutor's office.