Court Voids Illegal Gun Rationing Law
In a lengthy and carefully reasoned decision read from the bench December 13, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Maurice Gallipoli declared Jersey City's one gun a month handgun rationing law null and void, holding that it violates state pre-emption, equal protection, and was "arbitrary and capricious."
Ordinance # 06-116 – whose stated objective was to reduce crime – wildly missed the mark by rationing handguns to persons pre-certified by the State as non-criminals after undergoing extensive background checks.
"Rationing gun sales to law abiding citizens is about as effective at reducing crime as rationing alcohol to responsible drinkers is at reducing drunk driving accidents," said Scott Bach, an NRA Board Member and President of the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs, which initiated the lawsuit against Jersey City over the summer. "You can't reduce crime by disarming victims, and that's exactly what this ill-conceived law did," Bach said.
The ordinance conflicted with State regulation of handgun purchases, which is impermissible under New Jersey's pre-emption doctrine. Once the State has spoken on an issue, municipalities are precluded from enacting conflicting regulations.
Under New Jersey's extensive gun control laws – among the toughest in the nation – handgun purchasers must first obtain a separate government-issued permit for each handgun prior to purchase. Each permit is issued only after an extensive, costly, and lengthy background investigation of the buyer. Once permits have been issued, the State does not impose further restriction at the point of sale, but there must be a permit for each handgun purchased.
Jersey City's ordinance conflicted with State law, unequally treating Jersey City licensed dealers and residents of both Jersey City and other parts of the State. The City Council passed the law by a vote of 6-2, despite a mountain of evidence that the law would not reduce crime because it targeted only law abiding purchasers. The President of the City Council even called the measure "feel good" legislation that would probably not reduce crime – before voting in favor of the law.
"No one wants to reduce crime more than honest gun owners," said Bach. "But to reduce crime, you have to target the criminal, not the tool, because the criminal mind will always find another tool. We need tough prosecutors and judges to end plea-bargaining and impose tough sentences against criminals, with no parole. Honest gun owners are not the problem"
"The lawsuit was brought by ANJRPC with the support of NRA-ILA, the NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund, and the New Jersey Association of Firearms Dealers (an affiliate of the National Shooting Sports Foundation)."