Visitor to 9/11 memorial told police of loaded gun, was arrested
A Tennessee tourist who says she unwittingly broke New York's weapons laws by visiting the 9/11 memorial with a loaded gun -- legal in her home state -- faces 3 1/2 years behind bars for the error, which came to light when she asked guards where she could store her weapon while touring the memorial.
The Dec. 22 incident underscores the disparity in gun-carrying laws among states; some, like New York, ban the carrying of loaded guns and don't recognize the permits issued in other states for visitors carrying weapons. Opponents of strict gun laws argue that the right to bear arms, as outlined in the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution, should take precedence and that it is unfair for people like the tourist, Meredith Graves, to be caught in the middle of different states' regulations.
Local media reports have described Graves as a 39-year-old medical student who was in the area for a job interview and decided to visit the site of the fallen World Trade Center towers with her husband, and her loaded .32-caliber pistol. When she saw the signs reading "No guns allowed," Graves asked a security guard where she could check the loaded weapon in her purse, according to the New York Post.
Graves was arrested on suspicion of carrying a loaded weapon. She could face a minimum of 3 1/2 years in prison. She was freed on bail Wednesday and is due to appear in court in March.
Tennessee's Knoxnews.com said Graves got her permit to carry a loaded gun in August 2008 and that it was due to expire in 2012.
New York City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., who is chairman of the Public Safety Committee, said prosecuting people like Graves will spur gun advocates to fight harder against restrictions on weapons.
"By prosecuting this woman and seeking 3 1/2 years of jail, we are shooting our own [gun-control] efforts in the foot and giving the rest of the country ammunition," Vallone said, according to the New York Post. "Clearly the laws are too strict here," he added.
But a Tennessee firearms instructor expressed surprise that Graves would not have checked New York's laws before carting her loaded weapon into the city and said it was the responsibility of individuals to check each state's laws before traveling with their weapons.
“There are about 50 different sets of rules. We tell our students to call ahead before they travel with a gun,” David Dukes, the firearms instructor at Gunny's in Maryville, Tenn., told Knoxnews.com. He noted that most states' information is available on the Internet.
Whatever New York's laws might be, the president of the memorial, Joe Daniels, said it should be clear to anyone that loaded weapons would not be permitted at a highly secured site dedicated to the memory of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. "It's so obvious -- you shouldn't have to say it," Daniels said.
-- Tina Susman in New York
Photo: The National September 11 Memorial in Manhattan, shown Thursday, has drawn more than a million visitors since it opened in September. One was a Tennessee woman who was arrested on suspicion of carrying a loaded gun. Credit: Mark Lennihan/Associated Press