Five handguns purchased on the streets by undercover detectives as well as a gun used in a Passaic County suicide were all owned by a blind Rockaway Township man who won permission in 1994 to buy firearms and shoot them under supervision, according to court records.

The Morris County Prosecutor’s Office doesn’t want Steven Hopler to ever possess a gun again and is seeking to revoke all firearms identification cards and pistol permits held by the 47-year-old former truck driver who has been blind since 1991 due to complications from diabetes.

Superior Court Judge Thomas A. Manahan, sitting in Morristown, was scheduled to hear an appeal Thursday by Hopler to get his guns back but the case was postponed until July or August because he just hired attorney Gregg Trautmann to represent him.

Now-retired state Superior Court Assignment Judge Reginald Stanton in 1994 gave Hopler permission to purchase guns and several months later allowed him to fire them under strict supervision. Over objections then by the prosecutor’s office, the judge said he did not want to disenfranchise a population of blind people like Hopler from a gun collecting hobby they desired.

But according to court documents filed by Assistant Prosecutor Joseph D’Onofrio, authorities believe that Hopler has become so lackadaisical in his firearm handling and record-keeping that he poses a danger to public safety and shouldn’t be allowed to own them.

Hopler on Oct. 7, 2008, accidentally shot himself in the shin while handling a gun in the duplex he owns in Rockaway Township. Responding authorities found multiple guns strewn about the home, including loaded revolvers on a book shelf and fireplace mantel, a semi-automatic gun on the floor, and holstered firearms hanging from his bedpost, court records said. Police seized those firearms, and this unspecified number are among those Hopler wants back.

Hopler suffered complications from the shooting injury and returned home on Jan. 30, 2009, to find his home was burglarized. He reported to police that six guns were stolen, including a Smith & Wesson .45-caliber and Taurus 9mm.

Source: Peggy Wright for

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