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Penn. drug-crisis vigilante pleads guilty to gun charges in NJ

After his daughter's overdose death, a 52-year-old gun range owner from the Lehigh Valley dedicated his life to intervening when young people become involved with drugs and the collateral dangers associated with them. He's not performing your standard drug interventions, though. Instead, he stands ready -- and armed -- to pull people out of sticky situations in hotel rooms and flop houses and get those people to a treatment center.

He's in a bit of trouble. In June of last year, he and two other people were pulled over in Jersey City on their way to rescue a teenager in New York. The three contend that they were pulled over due to the Second Amendment theme of their neon-painted and decorated truck. Police say the truck had a cracked windshield and view-obscuring objects hanging from the rearview mirror.

A judge denied the defendants' motion to exclude the traffic stop and subsequent search from evidence. Therefore, the five handguns, semi-automatic rifle, shotgun and tactical gear they were allegedly carrying would be admissible at trial.

New Jersey has somewhat stricter gun laws than Pennsylvania, and requires guns being transported in motor vehicles to be unloaded and locked in the trunk or a secure container. The defendants allegedly did not comply.

Defendant pleads guilty, vows to continue his mission

According to the Associated Press, the two other defendants were allowed to enter a pretrial intervention program. If they successfully complete the program, the charges against them will be dropped. The gun range owner, however, was denied entry to that program. He is appealing the decision.

He has pled guilty to unlawful possession of a gun and possession for an unlawful purpose. Each of those counts is a felony and could result in a sentence of up to five years without the possibility of parole. However, his plea deal may allow him a sentence of probation.

That may be a problem if he doesn't change his tactics. In a police interview that was played in court, one of his co-defendants characterized him as "a danger to himself and others."

On the courthouse steps after pleading guilty, he didn't seem ready to give up on his mission. He decried the opioid and heroin addiction crisis as worse than an epidemic. "This is the plague," he said. "A plague kills everything in its path."

It's important to remember that any mission, no matter how crucial it may be, must be performed in strict accordance with the law. You can't help from behind bars.

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