Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Part II: Writer says Trenton's gun buyback was "illegal"



TRENTON -- Trenton's first gun "buyback" in two decades was held under the "Food For Guns" guise. Anyone could show up with up to 2 guns and walk out with a pair of $100 ShopRite gift cards (read the long post below with photos). No questions asked. No surveillance of folks showing up with their guns. Nothing. "Legit" is how the preacher guy from Shiloh Baptist Church described it. "Good" is how JoeBo the Mercer County prosecutor described it. "Sham" and "farce" are how the cynics described it. One of those cynics had a great point: someone who shot someone dead for the hell of it could have returned the death gun for 100 bucks and now there's no more evidence of the homicide. I hadn't thought of that angle. I'm not sure Joe Bocchini or the Shiloh Baptist guy or another of the others who put Saturday's "FFG" program together thought of that possibility, either.

Then there is the anti-buyback extremism. A Google+ friend by the name of Andrew Auletta forwarded me a letter that blows the theory of community gun buybacks to smithereens. The letter below is unedited. What do you think of the author's stance?



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"There was an article in today's The Trentonian about a gun buyback scheduled to take place this Saturday (5/5). The author is their new police reporter - the following is what I sent her, in response. It's long, but please bear with me..."




The Hypocrisy of Gun Buybacks

In The Trentonian of May 4th there is an article by the new police reporter, Sherrina Navani, about a gun buyback program that is scheduled to take place this Saturday (5/5). The article extols the virtues of this type of program, as seen by those sponsoring the event – the majority of the law enforcement community and the executive branch of local government.

Let me reveal my bias right up front – I am a member of this state’s vibrant and active firearm community. As such, I am expected to abide by the draconian firearms laws legislated for all people within the state. If I do not, I am liable for arrest, prosecution and conviction under those laws. It stands to reason that those empowered to enforce and interpret those laws, at the least, should be held to the same standard. Actually, given their station in governance, they probably should be held to a higher standard, but that is moot – you either break the law or you don’t.

While many of the firearms statutes are open to various interpretations, depending upon who is doing the interpreting, the laws that affect these gun buyback programs are pretty black and white.

Let’s start with “Voluntary Surrender”. Under the law, voluntary surrender is only legal when written notification is made to the chief law enforcement officer of your town of residence, or the superintendent of the NJSP, if your town does not have a police force. Said notification is to specify the proposed date and time of the surrender and surrender can only be made to the CLEO. Furthermore, immunity attaches only for illegal possession in the case of voluntary surrender.

So we see, from the outset, that these gun buybacks, where people can just walk-in off the street and surrender a weapon without any questions asked (total immunity), are patently illegal. But it doesn’t stop there.

NJ firearms law is written contrary to most other state’s laws in that all is deemed illegal unless there is a specific exemption, written into the law for that particular situation. Let’s look at transporting a firearm. NJ law says that it is only legal to transport a firearm under the following conditions:

  • To or from a range
  • To or from a federally licensed firearms dealer
  • Between your residence and a business that you own
  • Directly to or from a place for the purpose of hunting or fishing, providing you possess a valid hunting or fishing license
  • Directly to or from any sponsored firearm exhibition or show

Any weapons transported under the above exemptions shall be carried unloaded and contained in a closed and fastened case, gunbox, securely tied package, or locked in the trunk of the automobile in which it is being transported, and in the course of travel shall include only such deviations as are reasonably necessary under the circumstances.

As to the buyback itself, the law states that other than a federally licensed firearms dealer, only those in possession of a valid NJ Firearms Purchaser Identification Card, in the case of longarms, or a valid Permit to Purchase a Handgun (need one for each handgun purchased) can legally purchase firearms. Furthermore, in the case of handguns, only one handgun can be purchased in any thirty day period, unless an exemption is applied for and granted by the superintendent of the NJSP. There are specific reasons for granting these exemptions and a gun buyback is not one of them.

So the following NJ statutes are being violated by and/or at the direction of the very people we empower to enforce the law:

2C:39-6 – Transportation of firearms. Since the firehouse is not an exempted destination, everyone taking a firearm to the buyback is breaking the law.

2C:39-12 – Voluntary Surrender. Since the people surrendering the firearms have not given written notice of the time and place of surrender to the CLEO in their town of residence, they are breaking the law.

2C:58-3 – Purchase of Firearms. Those buying the firearms back (a de facto purchase) are violating any number of provisions, state and federal. No National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) is being done on any of those purchasing the firearms. They are purchasing more than one handgun a month.

Let’s look at this from another perspective: What is the benefit to the community? Those sponsoring this event would like you to believe that it is removing dangerous weapons from our streets thus making them safer. Sounds good, but really doesn’t hold-up under scrutiny. The majority of these firearms are relics that haven’t seen the light of day since uncle Harry put it the attic thirty years ago or are rimfire bolt action sporting rifles or similar, hardly the gun of choice among criminals. Also included are rusted relics that may seem functional, but you probably wouldn’t catch any of the buyers present testing it out on the range. Chances are that any working firearm, suitable for criminal enterprise, has already been used in a crime, and the very people that are supposed to investigate, arrest and prosecute the perpetrators are now giving them a free pass to dispose of the evidence – no questions asked.

How about those upstanding citizens that were victims of burglaries and have had their firearms stolen? Are they having their stolen property returned or being recompensed for property confiscated by the government and destroyed? How can they be? No questions asked.

How about firearms of historical significance, part of our heritage? Is anybody examining those guns turned in to see if they are valuable antiques or have a high collector status? No, off they all go to the smelter – why not burn the Constitution while you’re at it?

In this time of economic upheaval, when governments are looking for any source of revenue, why not sell the valuable turn-ins for which ownership cannot be established? Assuming you look past all the illegalities involved in first obtaining them.

So what purpose do these buybacks serve? They give those sponsors the illusion they are doing something to alleviate the crime problem. No, let me rescind that – I think they have no illusions about the effectiveness of these programs, what it does do is let them attempt to foster that illusion on the public. To get their pictures in the paper or their sound bites on TV to hoodwink the public into thinking they are doing something.

How hypocritical is it when those that we task to enforce the law, break those laws in order to further their political agendas? If you and I were to undertake such an enterprise, we’d find ourselves being criminally prosecuted – exactly what the sponsors of this program should face. I call upon the NJSP to enforce the laws of this state evenly, with no favoritism shown to members of the government. If I have to live by these laws, they should be no different.

These buyback are really a pet peeve, but as long as the ruling class is able to hoodwink those that empowered them, we'll have to endure them. Just another windmill.