Gun rights advocates should have reason to rejoice last month’s Supreme Court decision not to hear a challenge to New Jersey’s carry law. The law states that one must show and urgent need to obtain a permit to carry a gun outside one’s home. Both a police official and judge must approve the permits. Why should gun rights advocates rejoice at this? Because the crutch of depending on the federal government to “fix” the massive flaws in our state government has finally broken.
It’s no secret that New Jersey has one of the most hostile climates of any state toward gun owners and gun rights in general. Whenever our Assembly or Senate holds a hearing regarding its latest gun control bill, and there are a lot, the hearings are generally a sham. If a supporter of gun rights speaks, and the speaker reaches the allotted time to present an argument, he or she often does not have the opportunity to finish the last sentence. Meanwhile, gun controllers generally have the opportunity to finish making their point. If you doubt that, one can find plenty of videos of hearings. Anybody who believes in gun rights and has any awareness whatsoever of the New Jersey Legislature’s disdain for firearms freedom can easily fall into the temptation to give up hope of bringing about any change in our state’s policies for the better. It can also be appealing to look at cases where federal court decisions have offered a majority opinion against state and local gun control laws and believe suing your state in federal court is the best option. It can appear just, since the government history books often tell us the 14th Amendment incorporates the Bill of Rights. Tenth Amendment Center Communications Director Mike Maharrey does an excellent job shooting down both the incorporation doctrine and the idea of the Second Amendment applying to the states, so I think there is little I can do to add to that.
Still, many New Jerseyans failed to look to their state constitution for answers to restraining the tyranny in Trenton. Sure, the New Jersey Constitution does not spell out the right to keep and bear arms. So what? It doesn’t forbid it either. To reiterate from what we at the NJ TAC have been saying for years, we need to spread the message that state problems need a state and local solution, and we have those in the state constitution. For example: Article I, Section 1. All persons are by nature free and independent, and have certain natural and unalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and of pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness. Article I, Section 21. The enumeration of rights and privileges shall not be construed to impair or deny others retained by the people. While the words “arms,” “guns” or “firearms” do not appear, one would think the right to keep and bear arms would easily fall under the categories of use for defending life and liberty, protecting (and even being) property and pursuing and obtaining safety as stated in Article I, Section 1. Article I, Section 21 is New Jersey’s internal version of the Ninth Amendment, clarifying that listing one or several rights does not mean that other rights not listed do not exist.
If our state government wants to play games and split hairs with terms like “urgent need,” then gun owners and would be owners need to be as clever with the language as they are. Get as many applications on the books as possible. If they ask for an urgent need, self defense need be the only urgent need listed, given the condition of cities like Newark, Camden and Paterson. It may seem a dirty tactic, but have lawyers at the ready, and if one person whose carry permit the state denied is injured or killed in a criminal attack, people need to be ready to sue the state for negligence in denying its residents the right to defend themselves. It needs to be in the media every time someone suffers a break in, and did not have the opportunity to defend his/her personal safety, family and property. If it happens in an anti-gun legislator’s district, the people need to show that legislator’s face along with the perpetrator and the victim, to show those who deny decent people their unalienable right to defend life, liberty and property are not just passive bystanders, but guilty of the blood of the innocent. Most of all, we need to spread the message from the bottom up. Gun owners and advocates, invite those who disagree with you to come to a range. Dispel the stereotypes by disproving them in person.
There was certain to come a time when the strategy of depending on the federal government to protect our freedoms against state mischief was doomed to backfire. Perhaps it has not arrived in some states, while it arrived sooner in others, but that time is definitely here in New Jersey. Forget the rhetoric of “taking back America,” and start taking back your communities, changing one mind at a time if need be.