Friday, January 28, 2011
- Making NJ's Gun Laws More "Common Sense"
Robert Verbruggen does a good job detailing some examples of how New Jersey’s unjust gun laws have been used to incarcerate the innocent.
But if I'm going to be honest about it, I'd probably have a problem with it if this kind of anecdotal evidence were being provided by an anti-gun activist to justify new social policy. As a general principle, I don't believe you should base the rules on the outliers. So even though I agree with the conclusions that Verbruggen arrives at (that NJ's hyperbolic gun restrictions are unjust) I don’t think it would be right for me to give his methods for reaching them too hearty an endorsement.
The world is imperfect. So whatever the law, there will always be people who shouldn’t be punished who are, and people who should be punished who are not. I don't see any way around that. So in my mind it's far better to base laws on what will work best for most people, and to use objective science as the judge. That would be better I think, than crafting policy based on whatever the judges 'feel' is best at any given moment in time.
So although I'm not crazy about the 'rule by anecdote' process, in the interest of showing support for a more rational set of gun laws in New Jersey, I thought I’d throw out a few suggestions based purely on what is likely to make NJ citizens safer vs. what will only make the politicians (and antigun activists) ‘feel better’.
1. Repeal The Assault Weapons Ban
In the history of our Democratic Republic, no law has been more baseless and thoroughly unjustified than this one. It literally makes it illegal for a gun to look scary, no matter whether it is actually more dangerous than any other weapon. As testimony to it's utter ineffectiveness, I myself own both an AK47 (actually a Romanian WASR) and an AR15 (actually a rock river .223) both of which are guns the law's designers wanted to ban. Both of my weapons are 100% in compliance with NJ law, and still look as terrifying to an anti-gun activist as any firearm that the ban actually covers. So in fact, all the law really does is provide an arbitrary and pointless way for local law enforcement to harass gun owners if they are politically inclined to do so.
There were never many crimes committed with what the law refers to as "Assault weapons" (like much else in the bill - that's actually a misnomer), so it won’t have a great effect on public safety one way or the other. But we should repeal the law anyway because it proves with such stunning clarity, that the legislators who passed it are a bunch of illiterate imbeciles. They should be embarrassed that such an idiotic law is on the books, and the should repeal it immediately out of embarrassment if nothing else.
2. Repeal The Hollow Point Bullet Ban
The hollow point bullet ban was enacted during the media hyperbole about ‘cop killer’ bullets. In a error filled media campaign typical of the antigun movement, legislators and other activists falsely claimed that hollow point bullets were more dangerous than other kinds of bullets because they can ‘pierce through body armor’ and were ‘designed to kill rather than injure’. The fact however (and when I say fact I mean ‘FACT’ as in – a consensus view supported by ALL of the objective scientific evidence) is that hollow point bullets are MORE likely to be stopped by body armor not less.
The science is really beyond debate here. There is no reason to ban hollow point bullets except as part of an incremental policy to restrict firearm ownership. It does provide another tool for the political harassment of firearm owners. But like the laughably misnamed 'assault weapons ban', it too does absolutely nothing for public safety at all.
Since the ‘hollow point’ ban was passed, the political wind has changed in America. It was originally offered as part of an incremental strategy leading to a complete firearm ban, but since the supreme court has already ruled that unconstitutional, it should now be repealed. there is no longer a reason to prevent the law being brought back in line with the scientific evidence.
3. Allow Concealed Carry
As it stands, there is no law prohibiting the issuance of a concealed carry permit to private citizens in New Jersey. But in what amounts to a civil liberty tragedy, a purely procedural ban has been in place which has prevented the issuance of a permit to any private citizen for over 25 years. The only exception has been to retired police officers and armored car guards.
There are volumes of data which clearly indicate that allowing law abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons actually reduces crime rather than increases it. It raises a question of safety in the minds of potential criminals and therefore discourages them. And that means that the current law is putting the citizens of New Jersey at greater risk than they would otherwise be if the procedural ban were eliminated.
Better would be for the state to embrace the evidence, and begin to allow even a small number of permits to be issued. The state can require safety training or that applicants pass a test. They can make the permit costly enough to exclude all but a few applicants. But to continue to arbitrarily deny NJ’s citizens the right to defend themselves is contrary to their safety, and in all likelihood a violation of their constitutional rights.
4. Punish Criminals Not The Innocent
My final suggestion for changing New Jersey’s gun laws is one that even anti-gun advocates will probably get behind. We should DRAMATICALLY increase the penalty for using a gun in the commission of a crime. Anti-gun advocates have long supported only those positions where the innocent and law abiding are punished instead of those that actually commit crimes. But the rest of America has already realized that law abiding gun owners are not the problem, and New Jersey should do the same.
If anti-gun activists would focus on punishing criminals instead of making all gun owners into criminals, it would be an encouraging sign of rationality.