Federal Judge Weighs Fate of NJ Gun and Magazine Ban

Townhall Media

The legacy media hasn't bothered to report on a hugely important court hearing that took place late last week in New Jersey, but we've got all the details on today's Bearing Arms Cam & Co. Attorney Daniel Schmutter, who's the lead counsel in Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs v. Matthew Platkin, et al, joined the show to discuss last week's hearing before U.S. District Judge Peter Sheridan, who is now tasked with determining whether the Garden State's ban on so-called assault weapons and large capacity magazines passes constitutional muster. 


Schmutter says he believes Sheridan conducted a fair hearing, and though the judge admitted that he doesn't know much about firearms or how they operate, the attorney doesn't believe that's necessary to conclude that the statutes in question violate the right to keep and bear arms. 

"Judges are supposed to be generalists," he elaborated. "They're not supposed to have particularized knowledge, except in specific circumstances in specialized courts. Judges are generalists, and it's our job as lawyers, and the job of the witnesses and the evidence to educate the judge as to what's going on." 

In this case, Schmutter sought to educate the judge about the truth behind New Jersey's contention that magazines aren't "arms" protected by the Second Amendment, as well as what the Supreme Court had to say about the types of arms that fall under the Second Amendment's protections. Schmutter says the state's argument boils down to "we think magazines holding more than 10 rounds and semi-automatic firearms with certain features are used too frequently by criminals and therefore law-abiding people cannot possess them,” but he says the Supreme Court rejected that reasoning more than a decade ago in the Heller decision when it struck down Washington, D.C.'s ban on handguns over the District's argument that they are the most commonly used firearms in crime. 


Schmutter also pushed back on the state's assertion that neither "large capacity" magazines nor "assault weapons" are in common use for self-defense, which he says is not the test that SCOTUS says should be used. Instead, the justices in both Heller and Caetano talked about arms that are “typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes.” Self-defense may be the most common reason why people choose to exercise their Second Amendment rights, but the language of the amendment encompasses all lawful activities, including competitive shooting, training, hunting, and more. 

As Schmutter noted in his request for summary judgment, "[t]hat is precisely why the Supreme Court has held that “bear[ing] arms” includes not just firing them at would-be attackers, but “carry[ing]” them equipped with ammunition “for the purpose … of being armed and ready for offensive or defensive action.” 

Under a straightforward reading of both the text of the Constitution and the Supreme Court’s opinion in Bruen, an individual “uses” her firearm for the Second Amendment’s ne plus ultra purpose every time she keeps or carries it “at the ready for self-defense.”

If New Jersey's argument sounds familiar, it's because states like Maryland, Illinois, and California have all adopted that same position in defense of their own prohibitions. Schmutter says the gun control lobby has put together a strategy for the anti-gunners to follow in defense of their bans and Bruen response laws. 


"You're gonna see the same basic arguments brought everywhere, and New Jersey is no exception. We're seeing the same basic argument that, you know, magazines aren't arms, that there were restrictive laws in the 19th century for things like Bowie knives and trap guns, and things like that. None of them are valid. None of them really hold any water, but they're making these arguments and at the same time trying to trot in all of the interest-balancing that they're not supposed to be allowed to do." 

And unfortunately, some judges around the country have bent over backward to accept those arguments. The Seventh Circuit, for instance, has ruled that magazines aren't arms, and the so-called assault weapons that are banned under Illinois law aren't protected by the Second Amendment either because they're "like" machine guns. 

It will be anywhere from a few weeks to a few months before we learn whether Sheridan follow suit, or if he'll apply the "text, history, and tradition" test as the Supreme Court has instructed. I'm cautiously optimistic about the outcome of ANJRPC v. Platkin, both at the district court level and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which has recently ruled in favor of young adults prohibited from carrying a firearm for self-defense and a Pennsylvania man prohibited from owning a gun because he was convicted of falsifying his income on a food stamp application decades ago. 


Be sure to check out the entire discussion with Daniel Schmutter in the video window below for more on the ANJRPC case, the post-Bruen 2A environment in New Jersey, and how he got involved in defending the Second Amendment rights of New Jersey residents (which is a fascinating story in and of itself). 

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