AP Photo/Steven Senne
I’m used to seeing stories every day now about counties or towns around the country adopting a Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution, whether it’s a dozen counties in Virginia or a county in Texas. I have to say though, I was a little surprised to see a headline touting a new Second Amendment Sanctuary in New Jersey.
West Milford is now a self-proclaimed “sanctuary township” for law-abiding gun owners, though the provocative designation is purely symbolic.
The township council approved last week a non-binding resolution that “opposes further interference with, or abridging of, the rights of lawful gun owners.”
West Milford Council President Pete McGuinness said the local resolution, introduced by another council member and approved in a 5-0 vote on Dec. 4, was modeled after a resolution adopted in Illinois. It appears to be the first of its kind in New Jersey.
“We’re just letting the community know we are a gun-friendly, Second Amendment-positive township,” McGuinness said.
That’s nice to see, even if it is purely symbolic. And even if it is nothing more than symbolism, gun control groups are still calling out the town of West Milford for supporting the Second Amendment.
“A town council cannot nullify or ignore state public safety laws,” Josh Scharff, attorney for Brady — formerly the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence — said via an email from the organization’s spokesperson.
“New Jersey citizens have elected their state legislators and their governor who have passed laws that are proven to keep New Jersey citizens safe and to keep guns out of the hands of those who should not have them. It is dangerous for a local government to falsely imply that their townships are above the law,” Scharff stated.
Scharff is wrong, of course. Towns can prioritize whatever public safety measures they want. As a matter of fact, New Jersey’s Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has told prosecutors they have the discretion to enforce, or not, the state’s laws against possessing cannabis. Why wouldn’t they have the same discretion about enforcing the law that bans the possession of any magazine that holds more than ten rounds of ammunition?
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced Wednesday that instead of seeking to decriminalize marijuana possession, municipal prosecutors should use their discretion on each case. He called for the adjournment more than a month after Jersey City moved to unilaterally decriminalize marijuana. NJ Advance Media last week reported what Grewal was intending to announce.
“Municipalities cannot decriminalize conduct that the Legislature has criminalized,” Grewal said. “They can and should strive to ensure that individual justice is done in individual cases.”
Grewal added that each municipal prosecutor should consider several factors when deciding how to proceed with marijuana possession cases. Those include how a conviction would affect a person’s employment, housing and schooling, among other things.
If prosecutors have the ability to use their discretion on the possession of an illegal drug, they must have that same discretion to use when it comes to the possession of guns or magazines banned by the state.
In fact, while I thank the council members of West Milford for their resolution, I think they need to push the prosecutor in the township to use his discretion when it comes to enforcing the state’s gun control laws. If the only crime is a non-violent possessory offense, then that isn’t a case that’s worthy of the prosecutor’s time and energy. Focus on cases involving violent and repeat offenders, and refuse to bring cases against the possessors of 20-round magazines and otherwise legal gun owners carrying without a license. The state’s anti-gun Attorney General has given you the green light, thanks to his position on enforcing the state’s drug laws.
If the Attorney General calls out West Milford for their bold stance, the local politicians can just quote from that old 80s PSA: “I learned it from watching you.”