Second Amendment

New Jersey Turns Law-Abiding Citizens Into Felons

A new Garden State law makes felons of formerly law-abiding gun owners.

Arnold Ahlert · Dec. 13, 2018

“No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.” —Article 1, Section 9, U.S. Constitution, pertaining to Congress

“No state shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin money; emit bills of credit; make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts, or grant any title of nobility.” —Article 1, Section 10, U.S. Constitution, pertaining to the states

As of Tuesday, the Constitution was suspended in the state of New Jersey. Last June, one of six new gun-control laws signed by Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy banned the possession of any magazine capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Moreover, state residents have 180 days to give them up, permanently modify them to hold 10 rounds or less, or transfer them to someone legally allowed to own them. Active-duty military and law enforcement officers “authorized to possess and carry a handgun,” as well retired police officers, are exempted.

New Jerseyans who fail to comply can be charged with a fourth-degree felony, subjected to a prison sentence of up to 18 months, up to a $10,000 fine, or both.

It gets worse. On Dec. 5 in a 2-1 ruling, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law, rejecting a lawsuit filed shortly aft the law’s passage by the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs and supported by the NRA. U.S. Circuit Judges Patty Shwartz and Joseph A. Greenaway Jr., both appointed by Barack Obama, insisted the law did not violate the Second Amendment because it reasonably advanced New Jersey’s interest in preventing mass shootings and does not “severely burden” the Second Amendment rights of the state’s law-abiding citizens.

That would be former law-abiding citizens turned potential felons as of Tuesday.

Dissenting Judge Stephanos Bibas, a Donald Trump appointee, forcefully disagreed, insisting the Court “watered down” those rights. “The Second Amendment is an equal part of the Bill of Rights. We must treat the right to keep and bear arms like other enumerated rights,” he declared, referring to the Supreme Court’s 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller.

In fact, Bibas echoed the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion when he wrote for the majority’s ruling in Heller. “We know of no other enumerated constitutional right whose core protection has been subjected to a freestanding ‘interest-balancing’ approach,” Scalia declared. “The very enumeration of the right takes out of the hands of government — even the Third Branch of Government — the power to decide on a case-by-case basis whether the right is really worth insisting upon. A constitutional guarantee subject to future judges’ assessments of its usefulness is no constitutional guarantee at all.”

Unfortunately, New Jersey and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals are working toward the Second Amendment’s incremental elimination. And as columnist Daniel Horowitz reveals, both entities are hardly outliers. “Since the Heller ruling, five circuit courts have essentially abolished the ruling by allowing states to ban common weapons, common magazines, and any ability to carry any firearms outside the home,” he explains.

Horowitz further notes the same Supreme Court with a penchant for upholding constitutionally dubious interests has been rather sanguine when it comes to clamping down on courts that defy the “plain meaning” of the Constitution.

And no one made the meaning of “ex post facto” with regard to criminal law plainer than Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase in Calder v. Bull, a case adjudicated in 1798:

1st. Every law that makes an action done before the passing of the law, and which was innocent when done, criminal; and punishes such action. 2d. Every law that aggravates a crime, or makes it greater than it was, when committed. 3d. Every law that changes the punishment, and inflicts a greater punishment, than the law annexed to the crime, when committed. 4th. Every law that alters the legal rules of evidence, and receives less, or different, testimony, than the law required at the time of the commission of the offense, in order to convict the offender.

So where is SCOTUS? As of now sitting on the sidelines. But maybe not for long. The Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs has promised to appeal the decision that turns “one million honest citizens into felons for keeping property obtained legally that could be used for defending their lives,” stated the group’s executive director Scott Bach.

In the meantime, New Jersey plans to act. “We will enforce the law of the state,” Lt. Theodore Schafer of the New Jersey State Police said. “That’s our plan.” When asked for details, Schafer referred questioners to the attorney general’s office.

Leland Moore, a public information officer for the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, was equally obstinate, refusing to answer any questions regarding how the state would deal with as many as one million gun owners who currently possess such magazines, including whether or not police would be conducting door to door searches. “We have no comment,” Moore said in response to numerous questions.

Ominously, New Jersey is hardly through with its efforts to eviscerate the Second Amendment. In October, Murphy announced a package of laws he wants the legislature to address in 2019, including one that would require ID from customers, and reports from retailers, for ammunition purchases.

In other words, a de facto gun-registry scheme.

“When I took office this past January, New Jersey’s gun-safety laws were among the strongest in the nation,” Murphy declared. “But there is still significant action needed to address our nation’s gun-violence epidemic. As we close out 2018 and move into the new year, we will continue to be proactive in our efforts to save lives and prevent needless tragedies.”

Utter nonsense. Needless tragedies are not committed by law-abiding citizens looking to defend themselves, their families and their homes. Just as more and more Americans, marinated in a stew of progressive ignorance, are growing comfortable with banning “hate speech,” so too are they buying into the idea that targeting law-abiding gun owners will reduce violence committed by maniacs and felons.

Nothing reveals the utter bankruptcy of their “logic” more than so-called “gun-free zones.” Gun-free zones turned classrooms into killing fields at Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, and Parkland, where the only thing more egregious than the extermination of utterly defenseless people was the reality that each shooter had ample time to reload — and reload — in the midst of perpetrating each atrocity, precisely because of that codified defenselessness.

If gun-control laws were the answer, Chicago would be the safest city in the nation. A total of 528 homicides so far this year suggests otherwise. So does the reality that cities with the highest homicide rates in the nation are overwhelmingly Democrat Party strongholds.

The same Democrat Party yearning to repeal the Second Amendment. Maybe banning Democrats would be a more effective strategy.

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