Gun nightmare

Mount Laurel, New Jersey resident Brian Aitken has begun serving a seven year prison sentence for transporting guns that he legally owned. Based on reports, Aitken was back home in New Jersey from Colorado following a separation from his wife.  The trouble started when his mother began to call the police on him after he muttered something under his breath.  Something the likes of which sound rather typical from someone moving back home after marital problems.  He muttered:   "Life is not worth living..." or something of the sort.  Aitken's mother is a social worker, naturally.

The police showed up and searched Aitken's car.  They found two guns in his trunk that he had purchased while living in Colorado, and arrested him.  Both of the guns were locked and unloaded, as state law requires, but the officers noted that Aitken did have "large capacity" magazines and hollow point bullets.  Additionally, Aitken was required to have a "purchasers" permit simply to own the gun in New Jersey and also a "carry" permit to have the guns in his car.

Now, Aitken finds himself in prison for essentially doing what most Americans consider a constitutional right.

There is even a
Facebook page dedicated to freeing him.

First, let's define "large capacity" magazines.  More specifically, what does the state of New Jersey have to say about "
large capacity" magazines?  Their law reads:

New Jersey prohibits the manufacture, transport, shipment, sale, or disposal of any large capacity ammunition magazine, unless the magazine is intended to be used for authorized military or law enforcement purposes. N.J. Rev. Stat § 2C:39-9h. New Jersey law defines "large capacity ammunition magazine" as a box, drum, tube or other container which is capable of holding more than 15 rounds of ammunition to be fed continuously and directly into a semi-automatic firearm. Section 2C:39-1y.

15 rounds is the limit?  Why not 14?  Or, 16?  As a side note, Glock handguns, not that many years ago, use to be sold standard with 17 round magazines - I know because I have shot them - and still do.

In regard to "hollow point" bullets.  
Hollow point bullets are actually safer in many ways than traditional full metal jacket bullets. Where full metal jacket bullets tend to go through what you are shooting at, and hit things you are not shooting at, hollow point bullets mushroom, slow, and stop, once they hit just about anything.

Attempting to keep guns out of the hands of criminals is a noble venture but most state and Federal gun laws seem to come up short in this respect.  Economist John Lott has written extensively about guns and crime, both academically, and for popular consumption (see Freedomnomics, pages 142 - 144).  In one paper, co-authored with Economist Stephen Bronars, the abstract

The benefits that a county obtains from it's state passing a shall issue concealed handgun law are generally stronger than those found in previous work. Spillover effects on neighboring areas are almost always deleterious. Criminals tend to move across communities more readily in response to changes in concealed handgun laws than in response to changes in arrest rates. The spillover effects are surprisingly large, especially for property crimes, thus questioning existing research which ignores these considerations. The spillovers are immediate and increase over time (with the exception of assaults and auto theft). Except for rapes, the negative effects of a neighbor's law are mitigated by having one's own state adopting the law. Taken together these results imply that concealed handguns deter criminals and that the largest reductions in violent crime will be obtained when all the states adopt these laws. We find little evidence that increased arrest rates create similar spillovers.

A little bit of consistency in state gun laws would certainly make armed traveling easier, but I will take state gun laws over Federal ones any day, and as of now there is little hope for Brian Aitken other than the leniency of Governor Chris Christie.

But what do I know about guns - my girlfriend can out shoot me.  She can probably out-shoot
Annie Oakley too, but I digress.

Sterling T. Terrell is an economist and writer living in Texas.