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State v. Repp

Decided: August 15, 1974.


Handler, Meanor and Kole. The opinion of the court was delivered by Meanor, J.A.D. Kole, J.s.c., Temporarily Assigned (concurring).


Once again an appellate court is asked to construe New Jersey's Gun Control Law, N.J.S.A. 2A:151-1 et seq., sustained as constitutional in general in Burton v. Sills, 53 N.J. 86, 28 A.L.R. 3d 829 (1968), app. dism. 394 U.S. 812, 89 S. Ct. 1486, 22 L. Ed. 2d 748 (1969). As has been recently and aptly noted, this is a statute "not without its obscurities." State v. Hatch, 64 N.J. 179, 186 (1973).

The indictment here, as amended, charged that the defendants "did unlawfully carry in an automobile a certain firearm to wit: a shotgun without first having obtained a requisite firearms Purchaser Identification Card contrary to the provisions of N.J.S.A. 2A:151-41."

The convictions from which these appeals ensue arise out of events that took place in the early morning of Saturday, April 10, 1971, in the Borough of Clementon. The State's case was presented through the testimony of Francis A. Dailey, a Clementon patrolman. At 12:45 A.M., while in a patrol car, he saw a vehicle owned by defendant Howard J. Stiles pull into the parking lot of the Clementon Borough Hall. Defendants Stiles, Charles LaPollo and John Repp exited from the Stiles car, ran to another vehicle in the lot and "threw open the driver's door and the passengers' door."

Dailey's investigation revealed the presence of a shotgun in the front seat of Stiles' car. None of the defendants could produce a firearms purchaser identification card.

The essential facts of the State's case were not disputed. The defense was to the effect that LaPollo owned a gas station in Lindenwold which was open 24 hours a day. On Friday, April 9, 1971 the two couples, Linda and John Repp, and Victoria and Howard J. Stiles, arrived at LaPollo's station sometime late in the evening. LaPollo was not there, the station being attended by his employee Horace Lederman. At this point those present thought that there was an attempt to break into the rear of the station. Lederman called LaPollo and asked for some protection. LaPollo lived nearby and arrived at the station just as a police car was pulling up. The station was searched to no avail.

LaPollo owned a shotgun which he had taken to Stiles' apartment the night before in order to clean it with Stiles' cleaning kit. The gun had been left there by LaPollo who asked Stiles if it could be returned, ostensibly to provide the protection that Lederman requested. Stiles asked his wife to go to their apartment in Stratford and bring the gun to the station. She did so, taking the Stiles automobile and was accompanied by Linda Repp. On the way to the Stiles apartment the two women were followed by a vehicle whose driver was sounding its horn and blinking its lights. When the Stiles vehicle stopped, the occupants of this vehicle tried to "pick-up" Linda Repp and Victoria Stiles. Mrs. Stiles was grabbed by one of their accosters and dragged a few feet. This "pick-up" attempt was reported to the Stratford police who investigated.

Following her husband's instructions, Mrs. Stiles put the LaPollo gun in a guncase and attached Stiles' hunting license to it. Because they were upset by the "pick-up" attempt, Mrs. Stiles and Linda Repp agreed to stop for coffee at the Repp apartment. En route there they passed the borough parking lot in Clementon where they saw the vehicle whose

occupants had been involved in the incident outside the Stiles apartment. They immediately went to LaPollo's gas station and informed their husbands of the occurrences. The three men, Stiles, Repp and LaPollo, entered the rear seat of the Stiles car which was driven to the parking lot. After their arrival and approach to the vehicle thought to contain the men who had tried earlier to "pick-up" Mrs. Repp and Mrs. Stiles, Officer Dailey and other police came upon the scene.

LaPollo, Linda Repp, John Repp and Stiles were indicted for violation of N.J.S.A. 2A:151-41(b). Linda Repp's case was severed and the three men were convicted. Only Repp and Stiles are involved in this appeal.

LaPollo contended that he was not required to have a firearms purchaser identification card since the shotgun had been acquired from his father before August 5, 1966, the date upon which the statutory requirement of a firearms purchaser identification card became effective. Repp and Stiles joined in this defense, urging that as alleged joint possessors they were entitled to share in the legal possession by LaPollo of the shotgun without the requirement of a ...

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