Oh, can you imagine the screams of outrage among their constituents if that headline were only true, and people were required to prove that they had a rudimentary knowledge of how our system of government works before voting?
But don’t worry, and don’t get outraged.
Your ability to vote while blindingly ignorant is still safe, New Jersey.
That revealed, it would certainly be constitutional if legislators decided to pass such reasonable restrictions on voting, which is a privilege. No federal law not constitutional provision defines voting parameters, and states do have extensive latitude in determining the conditions that define what makes a voter “eligible.” Any legislature in the nation could pass precisely such a law.
The Second Amendment, however, is a basic constitutional and human right which “shall not be infringed.”
That is something that a pair of New Jersey Democrats don’t seem to grasp as they have introduced legislation that would require any first-time gun buyer to complete a firearms education program before obtaining a gun.
Assemblymen Tim Eustace (D-Paramus) and Joe Lagana (D-Paramus) recently introduced legislation to require anyone who applies for an initial firearms purchaser identification card or gun permit to successfully complete a firearms education program.
“It just makes good sense to have some sort of education on owning and using a gun,” Eustace said. “It would be probably the equivalent of the boat safety course. In order to operate a boat in New Jersey, you have to take a boat safety class.”
Under the bill, the program would be developed and approved by the Superintendent of State Police. Those who pass the training course would be given a certificate which would be required for the initial purchase a handgun, but not for a renewal of an I.D. card or permit.
“Both Assemblyman Lagana and I are gun owners. We’re not anti-gun. We’re pro-safety. It’s not a matter of over-burdening gun owners. I would think it would make sense to anybody to want to be responsible,” Eustace explained.
The proposed legislation is blatantly unconstitutional, and thus has an excellent chance of garnering support in liberty-hating New Jersey.
Every firearms instructor I know strongly suggests that prospective gun owners voluntarily take at least a basic firearms safety course before obtaining a firearm. Most would like for gun owners to take system-specific training as well for the safe and effective use of different families of firearms, such as defensive handgun, defensive carbine, long-range rifle, etc.
But each and every one of these instructors understands the difference between a right and a privilege, something that neither Rep. Eustace nor Rep. Lagana seems to grasp.
While I’m not a resident of New Jersey and therefore not a constituent that either Representative might consider listening to, perhaps they could get the same sort of uniformity in firearms education that they desire by altering their legislation to make basic firearms safety programs a required part of elementary school, middle school, and high-school.
There are stories told every week in the United States—seemingly concentrated in highly urban blue states where firearms ownership isn’t as common—where deeply ignorant young people somehow get their hands on firearms and manage to induce a negligent discharge. Sadly, many of these discharges are due to a near complete lack of gun familiarity and safety in these highly urban cultures with little cultural tradition of safe gun handling.
Reps. Eustace and Lagana could make a real and significant impact in promoting gun safety to an entire culture if they pushed school-level training. This training would not only reach those who will acquire firearms through a formalized legal purchase pipeline, but the wider culture as well, including those subcultures whose contact with firearms is through unofficial channels.
At the elementary school level, the Eddie Eagle program (or something like it) can teach children to stay away from firearms and to contact a responsible adult if they see one.
At the middle school level, basic gun safety rules can be imparted.
At the high school level, students can learn safe gun handling, such as how to ensure that a firearm is pointed in a safe direction, and how to safely store firearms.
Arguably, young people like Winston McCullough Jr would still be alive today, and his friend Jabre Versace Creamer would not be facing homicide charges, if the teens had received the sort of basic firearms training during their school years.
The National Rifle Association already has a curriculum to adapt and thousands of instructors that could easily step in to provide such training in schools across the nation, and take an already declining number of “accidental” (negligent) shootings and reduce those figures even further.
I hope that New Jersey legislators will take a long, hard look at what they actually want to accomplish, and discover they there are better ways to have a wider impact, while infringing less on basic constitutional rights.