ROCKAWAY, NEW JERSEY – A blind New Jersey man is declaring victory in a legal battle over his gun collection.
The state confiscated his weapons citing safety, but now a judge’s order — citing the right to bear arms — means he will get them back.
Steven Hopler of Rockaway knows a lot about guns. The 49-year-old has been handling them since childhood, and practices regularly at a local gun range. His aim is incredible, especially considering he’s blind.
“I’ve handled guns for many years — being sighted and being blind — and I’ve never had a problem,” Hopler told CBS 2′s Derricke Dennis on Friday.
But four years ago, Hopler had an accident. He shot himself in the leg. Police responded and took six of his guns, citing safety concerns. They also accused him of drinking too much.
“They had taken the guns that were out in plain sight,” Hopler said.
That episode began a legal battle that wound up in Morris County Superior Court. Prosecutors argued Hopler shouldn’t have guns because he’s a danger. However, a judge ruled otherwise, saying his disability shouldn’t take away his constitutional right to bear arms.
Robert Trautman is Hopler’s attorney, and said police singled out his client.
“The state argued that Steve drinks too much.” Trautman said. “It’s just simply that the police didn’t want Steve Hopler to own firearms because he’s blind and they felt that was improper.”
In a statement, the Morris County prosecutor said “From the outset, there was concern as to whether Mr. Hopler was suitable to possess firearms…we are satisfied that we had our day in court…and no appeals will be filed.”
With the ordeal finally over, Hopler said the victory is about more than guns.
“I wouldn’t say power, [it’s] freedom,” he said.
The judge’s order said Hopler’s guns should now be returned. He’ll make arrangements on Monday.