New Jersey vs. Gun Owners
For much of the past forty years and more often at government expense, Phil Murphy has surrounded himself with a well-armed and trained private and public security force, first as a bigwig with Goldman Sachs, then as U.S. ambassador to Germany for Barack Obama, and now as governor of the deep-blue Garden State that narrowly elected him to a second term amidst an unforeseen red wave of discontent at the ballot box. Along the way, his dogma evolved from boardroom idealism to political progressivism, an evolution familiar to those of moneyed privilege and far removed from the trials of life on Main Street.
One would think that an electoral narrow escape in a state accommodating a three-to-one Democrat majority would force an epiphany regarding one’s causes célèbre. With the courage of a lame duck, Murphy is instead approaching his second inauguration by doubling down, tacking hard left to focus upon his party’s playbook -- offering sanctuary and free money to tens of thousands of illegal immigrants, pushing hate curricula in grade school, still surrendering legalized marijuana consumption to the black market, and rendering the citizenry defenseless through gun control schemes.
The window to effectively disarm New Jerseyans is closing within days. The current legislative session ends on January 11, replaced by a Democratic majority wounded by the loss of eight Assembly seats to the Republican caucus and the red flag of a cliffhanger election. Wrapped in the rhetoric of gun safety and citing a recent Michigan school shooting as the du jour act to move quickly, Murphy has opened a salvo on the state’s one million legal gun owners by dissimulating the actual causes of gun crime.
Murphy admits that eighty percent of New Jersey’s crime weapons come from out of state, a statistic that comports with New York City and nationally with the percentage of criminals who come to possess weapons either through the illegal route of a black market or straw purchases, wherein guns are lawfully purchased by non-criminal proxies for the purpose of handing them over to felons. Even in America’s most violent city, Chicago police report that legally-owned weapons are rarely found at crime scenes.
Moreover, forensic gun examinations and ballistics comparisons by Murphy’s own state police force reveal that a weapon used in a homicide or shooting is often traced through ballistic comparisons to numerous other violent crimes. In other words, an illegal gun can change hands, making the rounds among a small community of serial shooters or fellow gang members.
Murphy has been undeterred by the established dissociation between legal gun ownership and gun crime. In the midst of the pandemic, and perhaps greasing the skids for a 2024 presidential run, he began pushing a bundle of eight gun reform bills through the legislature. Two, in particular, stand out in breaching the Second Amendment.
Assembly Bill 5787 requires the microstamping of semi-automatic handguns and firing pins and is a Trojan Horse for a registered database of legal gun owners. Problem is that the technology hasn’t caught up with liberal fantasy, so codification into law could have the effect of banning all sales of new handguns. California is the litmus for New Jersey in this regard, having put the rule on the books in 2020 after seven years of court challenges by gun rights groups and manufacturers. Without a solution to overcome metal wear and tear, as well as intentional obliteration of the stamp by criminals, new model handguns are embargoed in California and gun makers are bidding farewell, leaving the shelves lined with vintage stock and threatening to implement the longtime goal of the left of putting licensed gun shops out of business.
Eighty-one million Americans now legally possess more than 390 million guns, with seven of every ten claiming protection and home defense as their reason for ownership. New Jersey Assembly Bill 5647 mandates that the gun would have to be unloaded prior to safekeeping and the ammunition stored in a separate location. This makes a mockery of the state’s Castle Doctrine, rendering a handgun virtually useless for tactical protection by requiring the homeowner to separately access and assemble a gun and a magazine, then chamber a round in the face of an imminent residential threat. Criminals are delighted at that predicament, as nothing is more unnerving to an invading felon than the prospect of running into a pistol-packing mom or pop, with almost two-thirds more fearful of that interaction than going head-to-head with a cop.
State Senate President Steve Sweeney, heretofore one of the state’s most powerful and recognizable Democrats, was recently ousted by a MAGA upstart with no political experience and a campaign treasury of less than two hundred dollars. Sweeney has since gone Machiavellian, keeping his powder dry for a future gubernatorial bid and using his last days in office to persuade moderate Republicans and pragmatic Democrats into sidelining centerpieces of Murphy’s gun control agenda. He recently thrilled the NRA by putting A5647 on the Senate shelf.
Between outings to Italian villas and Caribbean playgrounds, Murphy tries to conceal his champagne socialism behind state police-branded outerwear and face coverings that do little to mask his continued imposition of First and Second Amendment indignities upon a pandemic-weary electorate. He likens lawful gun ownership to gun crime while equivocating on the commendable work Jersey cops have accomplished to challenge the actual root causes.
Years before Murphy took office and in response to escalating shootings and homicides in the cities, state police created a collaborative community of 479 full-time police departments to target illegal guns, not legal owners. Every seized crime gun and spent rounds are sent to the state forensic laboratory within eight hours for ballistics testing and comparison. Bureaucratic obstacles to gun processing are overcome, permitting the collections of fibers, blood, and hair, fingerprinting, photography, DNA swabbing, test firing, and comparison of shell casings to be conducted in a one-stop processing room, eliminating the previous ten-month delay. In a one-to-two-day turnaround, lead value information connecting the weapon to individuals or other criminal acts is provided to detectives to develop suspects and inform interrogations and interviews.
In partnership with that initiative, the state’s intelligence fusion center also developed a stratagem of biweekly conference calls, monthly chief’s meetings, and relentless crime analysis to cull the criminal herd in an effort to identify and pursue the cluster of serial shooters that have terrorized the urban landscape. Those who pull the trigger tend to do it often until stopped. Those offenders also exhibit a criminal profile that includes prior arrests and convictions for gun-related crimes and incidents as a shooting victim or suspected shooter. By weighting those factors, one arrives at a measure of the seriousness of offenders and their probability of committing an additional crime. In New Jersey, police commanders objectively consider those criteria to allocate limited resources to target the most violent gangsters and for prosecutors to make bail recommendations based on the likelihood of repeat offenses. Using this strategy, the state’s largest city, Newark, reduced shootings by thirty percent in 2019.
Unfortunately, gun-grabbing and overcooked recipes for gun control are innate to the character of progressives and favor the criminal by targeting citizen rights. Murphy suffers fools blindly by appearing oblivious to the fight against gun crime that has made his own state the gold standard for similar practices in several other states. It is more important to burnish one’s Beltway qualifications by perennially chipping away at the Second Amendment, no matter that all the databases, gun taxes, tech fixes, and lockboxes have no impact whatsoever on reducing violent street crime with black-market guns.