In a united effort to stop New Jersey’s assault on gun rights, groups are doing everything possible to convince Garden State politicians their proposed legislation is unconstitutional.
“New Jersey already has among the strictest gun laws in the nation,” said Scott L. Bach, executive director of the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs, the state’s premier second amendment organization and official National Rifle Association state affiliate.
Currently everything about firearms is banned except where the state narrowly allows it, said the former auxiliary police captain. “Ownership, possession, use, transportation, transfer, and sale are all illegal in the state of New Jersey except for tiny, confusing exemptions.”
In reaction to the Newtown tragedy, legislators introduced gun control laws in January that range from the sublime to the ridiculous, he said. “More than 80 new bills are pending.”
New Jersey Gov. Christopher J. Chris” Christie held four public hearings across the state that addresses the proposals, he said. Assuming office in Jan. 2010, Christie became the first Republican to win a statewide election in New Jersey in 12 years.
Statehouse sources close to the legislation said that gun rights advocates are walking a tightrope: Christie is better than a Democrat, but he gives them no overt support or encouragement.
Bach said the claims by gun rights opponents that more gun control laws will encourage public safety and reduce violent crime is a fallacy with no depth.
“The notion that criminals follow gun laws is absurd. New laws will only restrict honest citizens and no one else,” he said.
“Gun statistics show gun ownership is at an all-time high, and gun accidents are at an all-time low,” said Bach, who is also a practicing attorney and National Rifle Association board member.
Regardless of the facts, the state legislature is moving swiftly to penalize innocent gun owners, he said. “The state house will adopt whatever the gun ban movement promotes.”
New Jersey has a political culture that hates gun rights, he said. “It’s unfortunately a gun-banner’s dream here.”
The people are mobilized to counteract these proposals, he said. “The legislature has awakened a sleeping giant in an election year.”
Gun owners, hunters and sportsman are extremely agitated and highly motivated to defeat unconstitutional laws and the politicians who promote them, Bach said.
“This is pure political opportunism at its worst and it’s going to backfire badly on them,” he said.
“The Democrat-controlled state assembly passed gun control legislation in one day,” said Frank Jack Fiamingo, president and founder of New Jersey Second Amendment Society. NJ2AS is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization dedicated to protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners in New Jersey.
The state senate is proceeding with a more measured approach, he said. “They invited the top five gun rights organizations to provide testimony.”
“From three out of the four hearings, 98 percent of the attendees were pro-Second Amendment rights’ activists,” said the semi-retired business owner and pistol shooting hobbyist.
The existing gun laws in New Jersey are already defective, Fiamingo said. “There is no clear right to keep and bear arms.”
The average citizen can apply for a permit, but the likelihood is they will not get one, he said. “The laws are set up that we are guilty until proven innocent.”
Even with a permit to carry a hand gun, the unloaded firearm is lawfully possessed only in one’s home or to and from a gun shop, he said. “If you stop at the grocery store for milk, you are subject to arrest.”
“In New Jersey, there is no lack of gun laws to challenge,” said Daniel L. Schmutter, a litigation partner at the law firm of Greenbaum Rowe Smith & Davis, LLP.
“Part of my practice is to represent firearm associations and individuals whose Second Amendment rights have been violated,” said the civil rights and constitutional law advocate.
Schmutter has submitted five amicus curiae briefs to the Supreme Court of the United States and the New Jersey Supreme Court, one of which was cited by Justice Samuel Alito in the 2010 landmark case McDonald v. Chicago.
If some of these provisions pass then that will determine which legal challenges are apparent, he said. “I am preparing for the aftermath if needed.”
Innocent gun owners do not pose a threat to society, he said. “Gun owners improve public safety.”
Keeping guns out of the hands of lawful citizens does nothing to improve the situation with violent crimes, Schmutter said. “People need to understand that there is a large difference between law abiding citizens possessing firearms and criminals possessing firearms.”