Tuesday, September 28, 2010

He got a .32 gun in his pocket for fun...

The big news among New Jersey gun bloggers is state senator Jeff Van Drew's new concealed-carry proposal.  

See, Jersey is one of the nine remaining holdouts clinging to its "may issue" system for issuing concealed carry permits. The system allows police to deny permits arbitrarily even to fully qualified citizens, and (as in most may issue states) the discretion is used to enforce a de facto ban. The state has about a thousand carry licenses currently active out of a population of nearly nine million, and almost all of those are held by armored car drivers.

The particular clause abused by the NJ justice system is the law's requirement that the applicant show a "justifiable need" to carry a handgun. Current statewide policy is that no civilian need is adequate, besides protecting somebody else's money.

Van Drew's proposal would change that, bringing Jersey into the 21st century by eliminating the need clause. This is great, but there's a catch:

...[the bill] would allow residents to carry handguns if they go through a background check, complete courses in firearms safety and the lawful use of force, pass a test and pay an annual $500 fee.

Sweet barking cheese! Five hundred bucks?! A year?!

Hokay. Let's get out of the way the fact that this is utterly, skull-splittingly insane. Most states issue carry permits for around $20-125, and they're generally good for around five years. The text of the proposed statute specifies that a hundred bucks will actually go to covering the cost of administering the permit system (which is still wildly overpriced, but this _is_ New Jersey), while the remaining four hundred would go into the state's general treasury. This is a burdensome, revenue-generating tax on an enumerated Constitutional right. Imagine for a moment a proposal to bail out New Jersey's unsustainable government model by issuing a $500 annual permit to attend church.

Now, taken as understood that the proposed bill is flatly unacceptable as a public policy...

I think it could be good for us, and hope it passes.

I won't be paying $500 a year for the privilege of exercising my civil rights. But with our current looming budget apocalypse, and the implicit bias toward the wealthy and connected, and with our former governor and gun-control fetishist now replaced by a Republican gun-agnostic, this monstrosity may have a chance in hell of actually passing. If that happens, New Jersey will have explicitly abandoned the principle of "justifiable need". It's hard to overstate just how big a deal that is. The state will, though simultaneously picking our pockets, be saying in no uncertain terms that there's no problem with any qualified citizen carrying a gun.

It's not acceptable in the long run. But it's an acceptable first step. We can haggle over price later.  

Edit:  Ian Argent sets me straight on some details of the SAF carry suits in comments at his blog.  If he's right, I'm coming fully around on this one.  It would be much, much better for New Jerseyans if this "compromise" goes nowhere.)  


  1. "The system allows police to deny permits arbitrarily even to fully qualified citizens, and (as in most may issue states) the discretion is used to enforce a de facto ban. "

    Actually more like a racket for money and political favors.

  2. You know, I used to believe that about Jersey, but again, we have only about a thousand permits active, including all the armored car drivers in the state. There's a hell of a lot more wealthy people than that bribing their local COPs and judges.

    There may be another, less documentable backdoor way of rewarding cronies with permission to carry, but the may-issue law doesn't seem to be used that way.

  3. Don't ask, don't tell, I guess. Or don't charge, anyway?

  4. I've heard of PDs giving, ah, _patrons_ a no-work functionary position that comes with a peace officer's right to carry. Never heard of it specifically in New Jersey, but I wouldn't be shocked.

  5. New Jersey just seems to be adamandtly opposed to carry at all levels of government; in some ways even more so than say, NYC

  6. I'm assured it wasn't always so. My NRA instructor (not an old guy) tells me about his father holding an NJ carry permit up until a few decades ago, when the state gave orders to stop issuing 'em. Their family's well established in the community, has a good relationship with the cops, and is pretty committed to their guns, so they probably had it better under the discretionary system than a lot of other folks did, but still... It's amazing how quickly and completely the ban has become the norm here.

  7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plainfield_Riots


    I have to wonder, also, about the timing of the wind-down of the Vietnam War, as well. This war was iconically (not necessarily truthfully) fought by "the underclass". In the early 1970s they're coming home, bringing their weapons training and a stigma of "mental illness" and "committer of atrocities" along with them; into an environment where it looked like a class war was brewing. You can't take the training away, but you can take away the guns; and the cops are middle class, thus expected to side with the suburbs.