New Jersey Prosecutors Seek to Strip Blind Man of Gun Rights

On Oct. 7, 2008, Steven Hopler, who is legally blind due to complications stemming from diabetes, shot himself in the shin while handling a .347 [sic] caliber Smith & Wesson revolver at his duplex in Rockaway, NJ. 

Upon arriving at the scene of the accident, police officers found several firearms splayed about the house.  The officers decided to seize eight handguns, including one found in an oven mitt and another hidden under a seat cushion. 

Things got worse for Hopler as he would spend the next several months being hospitalized for his wound, which got infected. 

When he was released from the hospital in January 2009, he came home to find that his duplex had been burglarized.  The thieves had managed to take 12 handguns and two shotguns, some of which were missing paperwork, according to court documents. 

Now the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office wants Superior Court Judge Thomas V. Manahan to order Hopler, who is now 48 years old, to forfeit his handguns along with his firearms purchaser identification card on the grounds that he is unfit to safely maintain his weapons. 

However, Gregg Trautmann, Hopler’s attorney, has argued that he has continued to meet the court’s expectations and has demonstrated that he is fit to own firearms.  

Last year, at the behest of the court, Hopler took an NRA safety course and had an alcohol evaluation.  The alcohol evaluation was included because prosecutors found out last year that Hopler was accused of being drunk and disorderly in a bar in 2003. 

Assistant Prosecutor Catherine Broderick told the judge last Thursday that she is not holding the burglary against Hopler, because he was the victim of a crime. Instead, she said, “It’s the totality of all the circumstances” that warrant forfeiture, the Courier Post reported.

Judge Manahan is expected to render a decision on Dec. 8 on whether Hopler will be allowed to keep and maintain his 2nd Amendment rights. 

A court first allowed Hopler to purchase firearms and shoot them under strict conditions in 1994 after he went blind in 1991.