Phil Murphy, Democratic contender for NJ governor, has taken a strong position against guns. There’s nothing surprising in that; it’s consistent with the rest of his poll-driven campaign. His folks polled likely NJ voters, who said they want tight gun control. Those answers went straight into his platform.
New Jersey has a long history of gun control, typically adopting measures before the feds. It’s part of the NJ Democratic mantra. Whether gun control is a good campaign issue is another story. It’s like asking people about a flag-burning amendment. Everyone has a strong opinion, but it’s not important enough to sway votes.
New Jersey has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation. Legal gun ownership in the state includes plenty of hurdles. Permission from the local police chief is required before a legal weapons purchase. Every ammunition purchase requires ID and a log entry. If you drive to a gun range, the state describes the route you must take.
Regulations haven’t limited the number of guns in the hands of criminals in Paterson, Newark, or Trenton. These are the guns voters want to control. It’s not clear that tough laws and mandatory sentencing are changing the behavior of NJ criminals.
Gun owners, more often Republicans, are much more committed to the protection of their second amendment rights. They are a smaller bunch, but much more likely to let gun laws change the way they vote. It’s why the NRA is one of the strongest lobbies in Washington.
Murphy’s platform says he’s tough on gun violence. That’s an easy stand to take. His specific recommendations are all aimed at legal gun owners.
Smart guns are weapons equipped with an interlock that allows only the owner to fire them. This technology is unproven. Smart guns are unreliable in situations when a gun is most needed: when the user’s hands are sweaty, when the user has to change hands, and the like. By design, a gun is a reliable and dangerous device. A requirement that citizens buy smart guns does absolutely nothing about the millions of dumb guns already in the hands of criminals. That the police have rejected smart gun technology is an indication that they are perfectly willing to have law-abiding citizens equipped with second-rate technology while keeping the best for themselves and criminals.
Mandatory gun safety training
On its face, gun training for all owners is a great idea. No longer is it true that gun safety is a tradition passed from generation to generation. I am in favor of gun safety training. The problem with mandatory training is that it brings with it a list of trained gun owners, a potential privacy problem. In addition, as with Murphy’s other measures, it does nothing about the untrained criminals who handle guns every day.
Tax gun sales
The state of New Jersey already collects 6.875% tax on every new gun sold in New Jersey. Murphy proposes an additional tax.
Gun transfer regulation
Murphy proposes a mandatory background check on each firearm transferred in the state. The state already requires that. He goes on to recommend mandatory registration of every firearm in the state. We have been keeping track of transfers long enough in New Jersey that the state police already have a de facto registration file of most legally owned firearms. The state police have no idea what criminals have guns. Mandatory registration would be a burden on legal gun owners with no benefit to fighting crime.
New Jersey already requires a search of mental health records before a firearms purchase permit is issued. Â Murphy seeks national legislation to allow the federal check to be more comprehensive and timely. That’s a matter for our congressional representatives and senators, not the governor.
Murphy would instruct the NJ Attorney General to enforce gun laws vigorously. That’s fine. There is no reason to have a law on the books that isn’t enforced. He goes on to use inflammatory language to imply that the AG acts as an agent of the NRA.
Murphy promises to reverse every gun-related veto from Governor Christie over the last seven years. That’s a headline-grabber, but non-sensical. There is no logic that makes an individual’s every decision wrong.
Murphy did a series of telephone polls to discover where the New Jersey parade is heading. Now he’s moving to get in front of it. That’s not leadership. That’s marketing.
Guadagno on Guns
Kim Guadagno has demurred on the matter of guns, claiming that she has the experience to deal with gun issues. She’s wise to do so. The majority of New Jerseyans like gun control, even if the issue is not enough to swing their votes. Committed gun rights advocates are likely to vote Republican just to thwart Murphy. Guadagno needs take no action to get their support.
Guadagno doesn’t have a score yet from the NRA. That’s not surprising; she gains nothing by bringing the issue to the forefront.
In short, guns are likely to be a non-issue in this gubernatorial election.