New Jersey’s largest newspaper has come out in favor of the sweeping new restrictions on the right to bear arms proposed by anti-gun lawmakers like Gov. Phil Murphy, laughably claiming that the new measures are reasonable and “rational” despite the chilling effect they’ll have on the exercise of a fundamental civil right.
As we discuss on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co, I doubt the editors at the Newark Star-Ledger would be so enthusiastic if the state were taking aim at the freedom of the press instead of the right to keep and bear arms, but sadly the folks in charge of the paper’s editorial page don’t seem to think that the Second Amendment protects a real right at all given their enthusiasm for the laundry list of infringements making their way through the state legislature. As far as the Star-Ledger editors are concerned, the fewer people exercising their right to bear arms the better.
So we applaud the Legislature and the Murphy Administration for devising a new set of regulations that are fair, balanced, and tailored to withstand constitutional scrutiny – while dealing with the 300,000 new gun owners that have already applied for firearm permits.
Let’s pause here to consider that bursting pipeline of applicants, and allow the math to guide our next steps. Imagine the consequences of another 15,000 guns in each New Jersey county. Imagine thousands more in high-crime cities like Paterson, Newark and Trenton.
Yes, imagine residents of high-crime cities being able to actually defend themselves rather than having to call police and hope for the best. Now imagine believing it’s a bad thing for good people to be able to protect themselves in their homes and in their communities, as the Star-Ledger editors do.
Throughout their anti-carry diatribe, the paper’s editors make it abundantly clear that, if the right to carry can’t be curtailed completely, the state’s laws should at least make it as hard as possible for those on the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum; coincidentally the same group of people who are most likely to live in high-crime neighborhoods.
The NRA and other guns rights organizations will undoubtedly challenge the list of 25 “sensitive places” where firearms cannot be taken under this bill, a common-sense provision that turns schools, government buildings, bars, stadiums, casinos, energy plants, day care centers, and other public places into gun-free zones.
They will also object to the very rational standards for background checks, such as the requirement of four non-family character references that would have to be interviewed by law enforcement before permits are issued. Applicants who have been convicted of certain crimes – including the violation of a restraining order – would be disqualified from obtaining a carry permit.
And they will also challenge the new standards for licensing, which includes an increased fee of $200; and the requirement of liability insurance, which they will call onerous, even though it has withstood challenges in other states.
Jacking up the fee to apply and imposing other financial burdens on those attempting to exercise their right to carry a firearm for self-defense is going to have a disproportionate impact on those with limited or fixed income and those living paycheck-to-paycheck. Some of those folks will choose to break the law and risk a felony charge because the risk to life and limb from being unarmed and defenseless outweighs the risk of prosecution, while others will abide by the law even though they would feel much safer if they were able to afford to exercise their right to carry. Either way, there’s nothing rational or reasonable about these impositions on a civil right.
The same is true for the state’s ridiculous proposal to have four non-family character references that can attest to your suitability to carry a firearm; a requirement that not only burdens those individuals with an in-person visit to a police station before you can exercise your right to carry, but imposes an absurd test on a constitutionally-protected right in the first place. Imagine if New Jersey lawmakers passed a measure requiring all church-goers to provide character references before worshipping on Sunday, or required all users of social media to possess a license before posting; one that could only be acquired after providing a list of individuals who could attest that you’ll behave responsibly while online.
Meanwhile, the sweeping number of “sensitive places” not only turns the vast majority of public places into gun-free zones, but also makes all private property off-limits to concealed carry by default, with only certain limited exceptions. You can allow someone to carry concealed in your home, for example, but it’s a felony for you or any other concealed carry licensee to do so in your private vehicle or public transportation.
Actually, I take that back. As long as you own your home you can carry inside, but if you rent your landlord can ban firearms from the premises, and those who live in government-subsidized housing would be barred from carrying on the property even if they possess a carry license.
Again, all perfectly “fair and balanced” to the Star-Ledger editors who, I’m guessing, have no desire themselves to carry a firearm for self-defense. That’s fine, honestly. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, and even under the most expansive reading of the Second Amendment no one is going to force these editors to start keeping and bearing arms.
But when you start trying to impede the rights of others we have a problem, and the Star-Ledger editors are correct in assuming that most of the provisions in whatever becomes law are going to be challenged in court; not because the hundreds of thousands of New Jerseyans who’ve already applied for a carry license are pawns of the gun lobby or paranoid loons who imagine a murderer lurking behind every park bench, but because they simply want to protect themselves and their loved ones from those who would do them harm. They know the police can’t protect them as individuals, and in many cases they may have serious doubts about the ability of the State or its political subdivisions to keep a semblance of peace in their communities.
There is no greater good to be found in infringing upon the most fundamental of our individual rights, no moral high ground to be claimed by criminalizing the Second Amendment. If the Star-Ledger editors want to back the legislative abomination that’s likely to become law, that’s on them, but in doing so they’re standing on the wrong side of the Constitution, history, and the human right of self-defense.