Sometimes it takes a difficult situation to let you know who your true friends are. At least, that’s the case for Steffon Josey-Davis, a 24-year-old New Jersey resident whose life was turned upside down almost two years ago after police stopped him for expired registration tags and learned he had a loaded gun in his glovebox.
Josey-Davis, who is waiting on a pardon from Gov. Chris Christie for what he calls a mistake, was charged with second-degree felony, put on probation and fined for possessing the loaded 9mm Smith & Wesson. The weapon was purchased legally through the armored truck company he worked for, but his carry permit was pending.
“It’s bigger than probation,” Josey-Davis told Guns.com. “It affected my life. I lost my car, lost the down payment on my house. I would have been able to buy a house at 22. I was going to get married.”
Josey-Davis also lost a potential career in law enforcement as he was on track to become a police officer in his local township.
“I caught a bad break because of the draconian gun laws in NJ,” Josey-Davis said. “Not to be bold against the laws of New Jersey, I follow New Jersey law, but why would you infringe on my second amendment rights?”
After receiving overwhelming support from conservative media outlets like Fox News and gun rights organizations, including the National Rifle Association, there was no doubt in Josey-Davis’ mind who had his back.
The Tea Party also asked Josey-Davis to speak at an event the conservative group hosted Thursday night. Before the incident and all the conservative love, Josey-Davis hadn’t been very political.
“I’ve never voted,” he said. “I was always on the outside looking in. … I stand for the Constitution. Whoever stands for all our rights – I’m with that person.”
Because he’s got a felony on his record, it’s been extremely difficult for Josey-Davis to find a job. He was courted by Texas-based Gun Rights Across America for a volunteer position heading up the organization’s efforts in New Jersey.
There has been a decent outpouring of support for Josey-Davis on the popular crowdfunding website GoFundMe.com, where he’s raised almost $12,000 since the campaign was launched Jan. 15. His Change.org petition to the governor and the New Jersey State Parole Board has received almost 93,000 signatures.
Shortly after the Sept. 30, 2013, run-in with the police and subsequent conviction, his family reached out the NAACP. His grandmother knew someone in the organization through her church so they thought Josey-Davis would be a shoe-in for its support. That turned out not to be the case.
“The NAACP said ‘Oh, It’s a gun, we’re not going to help you.’” Josey-Davis said. “If you claim that black lives matter and you’re a civil rights group, why are you jumping over the Second Amendment.”
Josey-Davis said he didn’t fit the organization’s agenda because he’s on the other side of the gun.
“It was a slap in the face,” he said. “They only step in in the black communities when a black person gets shot by police.”
Josey-Davis was in a rush the morning he grabbed his gun from a safe in his closet, picked up his body armor and headed to his garage so he could make his way to work. The security guard threw his armored vest and gun in his personal car and just before he was able to unload the weapon and properly store it, he noticed his 6-year-old sister had followed him to the garage. Not wanting to expose her to the firearm, Josey-Davis put it in the glovebox and escorted his sister back upstairs to her room.
Josey-Davis went to work and forgot the gun was in the glove box, he said. He worked several long shifts before being pulled over. While reaching for his proof of insurance, he noticed the gun in his glovebox. Josey-Davis told the officer he had the legally purchased gun and was told to surrender it. In addition to expired registration, Josey-Davis was also carrying an expired insurance card, though he was actually insured at the time. He explained the situation to the officer — that he had paid his insurance, but failed to print the updated insurance card. The officer wrote him citations for the expired registration and insurance and told him he would keep the gun.
“That was a Friday night, Josey-Davis said. “The police said pick up your firearm on Monday. They didn’t even act like it was a criminal act. … They just let me drive off.”
When Josey-Davis arrived at the police station with his paperwork, he was arrested.
The New Jersey native feels good about his case, which could win an appeal, he said. The governor’s office met with Josey-Davis twice, interviewing him at length. The last time was in April.
Josey-Davis is relying on his case falling within the amnesty period the governor created at the time to help with the state’s gun buyback program.
“If Gov. Christie grants me clemency, I will continue to pursue my career,” Josey-Davis said. “I just see this as a bump in the road.”