MOUNT LAUREL, NJ (CBS) — The case grabbed national attention and the ardent support of gun rights activists after a man was sent to jail for guns he bought and held legally.
Brian Aitken sits in prison, soon to be a free man.
On Monday evening, New Jersey governor Chris Christie signed an order commuting the seven-year prison sentence of the 27-year-old man, to the great relief of his family. The family has been told that Brian should be home before Christmas.
“It’s a big relief to finally have somebody do something about it,” Aitken’s mother, Susan, said.
In January 2009, Aitken’s mom called police worried that Aitken might hurt himself over a tough divorce and custody battle for his son.
When police arrived at the Mount Laurel home, they found two handguns in Aitken’s car.
And he was arrested. “For having unloaded, locked guns in your trunk,” Aitken’s dad, Larry, said.
At the time, Aitken was transitioning from his house in Colorado to a new home in New Jersey.
“Brian admitted, ‘They were my guns, I bought them in Colorado after an FBI background check, and no, I don’t have a New Jersey permit,’ ” Larry Aitken quoted his son as saying.
But his family was astonished when Aitken was convicted in August for possessing weapons without a permit to carry in New Jersey and received the seven-year prison sentence, since New Jersey law contains a gun possession exemption for a person transporting weapons from one home to another, as Aitken was doing.
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His family has been working around the clock, setting up a Facebook page and working with a lawyer to appeal the verdict. They heard Monday evening about the governor’s order to free Aiken immediately.
“It’s hard to believe we fought so hard and we did it,” Aitken’s brother Robert said.
“Now we have a lot more shopping to do and decorating. Time to focus on Christmas,” Aitken’s sister Jennifer said.
He might be home for Christmas, but his troubles are not over. Even though he’s been ordered freed, his felony conviction still stands. Aitken’s lawyer said that will be appealed.
Reported by Todd Quinones, CBS 3, and Mike DeNardo, KYW Newsradio 1060.