A Minnesota mom six months pregnant getting ready to head home from a trip to New York with her 6-year-old daughter was arrested last week for an unloaded handgun she had in the luggage she was attempting to check.
Beth Ferrirzzi (Image: WDAY video screenshot)
According to WDAY, Beth Arneson Ferrizzi had no trouble transporting the gun from her departure city -- Fargo, North Dakota -- as she called Delta to make sure she was following the correct protocol. But she encountered problems as she tried to return home out of La Guardia International Airport, after a trip meeting her husband while he was on leave from Honduras where he is stationed for a year as master sergeant serving in the Air Force.
"They said that the firearm had to unloaded and in a hard-sided, locked case," Ferrizzi said of Delta's instructions. "The ammunition had to be stored separated. Not separate from the gun but in either it's original packaging or some sort of a container that kept the bullets from being in contact with each other."
At La Guardia, when the airline discovered Ferrizzi had both ammunition and the handgun, they phoned Port Authority Police who handcuffed, arrested and took Ferrizzi to jail. Inforum reported that Ferrizzi's 6-year-old was transported in a separate unmarked police car.
"I went to the Delta counter and declared that I had an unloaded firearm in a locked case inside my bag I wanted to check. Upon hearing this, the Delta agent called the Port Authority Police," Ferrizzi wrote in a Facebook post, noting that she and her daughter were treated well during her time of arrest by authorities.
The 29-year-0ld mother has been charged with a felony for criminal possession of a loaded firearm, which could come with up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
The issue Ferrizzi said was a "breakdown in communication" that confused her about the differences in state law when it came to transporting a firearm. On Delta's website, it states that it is the passenger's responsibility to know the Federal, State and local laws regarding the transport of firearms. The TSA's regulations regarding checking a firearm are similar to that on Delta's website as well.
A quick search on the Web reveals that it's not exactly easy to figure out what the rules are for transporting a firearm out of New York in checked baggage. The New York and New Jersey Port Authority website simply states that passengers should be aware of the laws and directs them to New York or New Jersey state police websites. New York's firearms section of its website doesn't mention how a passenger can legally check a gun either.
It turns out, according to WDAY that although Ferrizzi's transport of the handgun was perfectly legal out of North Dakota, in New York the firearm is considered loaded if the passenger is in possession of both a gun and ammunition.
Ferrizzi now has a court date set in Queens in May for this Class "C" Felony, which is right around the time she is expected to deliver her child.
“It should not be normal that somebody who is attempting to do everything right is charged with a felony crime,” Ferrizzi said, according to Inforum.
Turning to the Fargo airport, where Ferrizzi was legally able to transport her gun, Inforum reported Executive Director Shawn Dobberstein saying "this is a common occurrence in New York Port Authorities."
The website for the Law Office of Martin D. Kane in New York too seems to highlight the frequent nature of such charges coming from airports within New York.
"So why are you reading this website? You're an honest citizen who followed all the rules. When you left AnyTown, USA Airport, you were treated respectfully when you made your firearm declaration. Your luggage, with the TSA lockbox, was inspected and cheerfully accepted for your flight to JFK or LaGuardia and you had no problem retrieving your luggage in New York," Kane's website states. "But when you came to the airport to return home and followed the same approved procedure, all hell broke loose. You were arrested, spent several hours or overnight in custody, appeared before a judge where the DA asked for humongous bail, and you were finally released and told to come back with a lawyer. Now you're scared and fighting mad at the same time. What's going on?"
Helen Peterson, spokesperson for the Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, told Inforum too that those unfamiliar with the laws causes issues several times a year.
“Unless you have a New York City license to carry, leave your gun at home," Peterson advised travelers, according to Inforum.
Regardless, Ferrizzi wrote on Facebook that she feels the situation she and her family have now been exposed to is wrong.
"I agree with gun laws to decrease violent crimes. I do my best to set a good example for my daughter and to be a law abiding citizen. I am from a family who is involved in the community, my mother is a retired teacher and my father owns a small business," she wrote. [...] I was misinformed. Crimes should be judged on a case by case basis, and what is happening to me and my family is wrong."
Watch WDAY's report that has an interview with Ferrizzi here.