Da'Quan Bowers is in trouble. He faces two counts of criminal possession of a weapon of the second degree, per NFL.com, which carries a mandatory 3.5-year minimum prison sentence upon conviction. Plaxico Burress faced the same charges after accidentally discharging a gun in a nightclub and shooting himself in the leg, although he also faced a reckless endangerment charge. He eventually accepted a plea bargain and served two years in jail.
It's unlikely that Bowers' case will result in a conviction, as some form of plea deal is fairly standard in this case. Given the fact that Bowers did not discharge the gun and even turned it in himself, a lenient deal may be possible. In fact, that is not unheard of. A quick bit of research (also known as "typing stuff into google") shows up several cases of nearly identical stories where people got off with just a misdemeanor charge and no jail time, probation or community service. Like this story. This is a fairly frequent offense, as explained by Shalley and Murray.
Here is how it works: Passenger lives in a state where gun control laws are not as strict as New York, like say, Texas. In Texas, it is probably illegal not to carry a weapon. Passenger wants to travel by airplane with his gun as he has done a million times before to other southern states. He does everything by the book alerting the airline in advance and checking for the appropriate procedures.
This time, however, he is traveling to New York City. So this time he actually contacts the airline and asks for instructions. They give him instructions. He follows the instructions. He has all the paperwork, all the licenses, all the everything he needs to be in legal possession of that gun in Texas and probably 23 other states, except unfortunately, New York. The airline information people provide him with the Federal rules about which they are primarily concerned but do not provide him the information about New York State specific rules.
Is Passenger careless for not paying closer attention to the rules? Should he have been more careful about making sure that everything would be ok in New York? Absolutely. Unfortunately for Passenger, however, aside from being so careless, he is, the moment the plane lands in New York City, probably guilty of a violent felony offense in New York City (and he has NO LEGAL DEFENSE).
Despite the fact that this is a frequently occurring offense, it seems that the District Attorney's Office still takes these cases very seriously, and that they will at times take a very hostile approach. And they will win that approach, because the defendant is pretty clearly guilty. That's the case with Bowers, too, because he turned in the gun himself, according to Roy Cummings.
Bowers alerted police to the handgun in his bag when he checked in at the aitport, according to Queen's County spokesperson
— Roy Cummings (@RCummingsTBO) February 18, 2013
This is good, in that it probably helps him secure an easy plea deal. It is also bad, because it means he really can't ever claim to be innocent in this matter: he obviously knew the handgun was there. Another extenuating circumstance is the fact that the gun wasn't actually loaded in a technical sense, as the bullets were not in the gun, per the New York Post. But that doesn't matter legally, as New York considers any gun traveling in the same case as its bullets to be loaded.
Everything about this smacks of an honest mistake -- as if there was any other option. Da'Quan Bowers was hardly about to go shoot up an airplane. That makes this an incredibly stupid move, especially so given the strict New York gun laws. But the fact that it was just a stupid, honest mistake may help Bowers avoid jail time. Plaxico Burress's case may frighten Bucs fans, but he faced an additional charge of reckless endangerment, hurting his chances of getting a good plea deal.
That said, this is still a very serious offense and it is not to be taken lightly. This is the kind of stupid mistake that can literally ruin a person's life, and it shows incredibly poor judgment by Bowers. Hopefully he'll manage to secure a good plea deal, but there's always a chance that this doesn't work -- because the prosecutors could simply press charges if they're so inclined.