By Laila Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Three Pennsylvania residents pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges of attempting to drive an SUV loaded with weapons through a tunnel under the Hudson River into New York, a city with some of the strictest gun restrictions in the United States.

Police stopped the vehicle in which John Cramsey, Dean Smith, and Kimberly Arendt were traveling outside the Holland Tunnel in Jersey City, New Jersey, in June. The tunnel is a major thoroughfare into lower Manhattan. The SUV was covered with stickers and signs supporting the right to bear arms.

The trio entered the pleas to 63 gun-related charges, including possession of handguns without proper permits and possession of drug paraphernalia, in a state court in Jersey City.

Officers recovered five pistols, an AR-15 assault rifle and a 12-gauge shotgun, as well as a small amount of marijuana and a marijuana pipe, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency that operates the tunnel.

Police also recovered knives, body armor and camouflage gear from the vehicle, the Port Authority said.

During the traffic stop, Cramsey told police he was traveling to Brooklyn to rescue a teenager from a drug den when he was pulled over, the Star-Ledger newspaper reported.

Cramsey, who owns a shooting range, told authorities that he had forgotten that weapons he uses at his business were in the vehicle, the Star-Ledger reported.

Smith, a videographer, said he was documenting the rescue attempt while on a journalism assignment related to the nation's heroin epidemic, the newspaper reported.

The defendants' attorneys on Monday argued that the group was searched without probable cause. They said police targeted the sports utility vehicle because it was covered with brightly colored decals espousing gun rights, the Allentown Morning Call newspaper reported.

The defendants' attorneys said they planned to file motions to suppress evidence in the case due to what they argued was an unconstitutional search, the newspaper reported.

Police said officers pulled over the group for a cracked windshield.

(Editing by Frank McGurty and Sandra Maler)