Tuesday, January 11, 2011

NJ Assemblyman asks Chairman Johnson to get constitutional ...

I thought I would share this email with you all. Assemblyman Michael Carroll (LD 25 NJ) sent the following letter to Chairman Johnson regarding concealed carry legislation that is in committee:

Hon. Gordon M. Johnson 
545 Cedar Lane
Teaneck, New Jersey
07666
 
Re:  A-1384, inter alia
 
Dear Chairman Johnson:
 
Previously, I wrote to The Chairman about the desirability of a comprehensive review of New Jersey firearms statutes.  I further understand that many folks in the pro-freedom community have reached out to The Chairman, urging the same course of action. I write again in the hopes that we, as a Legislature, can get right with the Constitution before the Federal Courts compel us to do so.  
 
As The Chairman knows, in the Heller case, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that individuals possess a constitutional right to possess and carry firearms, for (among other reasons) defense of themselves, of others, and of the State.  In McDonald, the Court made it clear – to the extent any dispute existed – that this constitutional provision applies to state governments as well. 
 
For many years, New Jersey stood, a lonely outlier, denying its citizens the basic freedoms enjoyed virtually everywhere else in the nation.  Back then, the State at least enjoyed the presumption that its actions were not of constitutional magnitude. It enjoys that polite fiction no more. Now, New Jersey stands revealed – to the extent any dispute ever existed – as being among the very few states denying its people one of their fundamental constitutional rights.
 
Obviously, we, as legislators, sworn to uphold the Constitution, should be personally offended when our laws so egregiously violate one of its fundamental provisions.  When – perhaps through misplaced passion – we act in a manner which denies our fellow citizens their basic constitutional rights, we should correct that mistake with all deliberate speed. 
 
In many cases decided since Heller, state-imposed restrictions upon basic freedoms have been tested, but nowhere are the restrictions more draconian than here in New Jersey (save, perhaps, Maryland).  That looks as if it’s about to change.  A lawsuit has been filed against New Jersey challenging its virtually absolute prohibition on the Second Amendment right to “bear arms” for personal self defense.  Although it is always a capital mistake to predict the course of litigation, if the Federal District Court faithfully applies Heller and McDonald, New Jersey’s outright ban on carrying firearms for self defense will meet an expeditious, and well-deserved, end.
 
Since this law was always poor policy – that the people of New Jersey are somehow untrustworthy, and certainly less trustworthy than the residents of 45-some-odd other states, was always, at best, a profoundly nonsensical proposition – its imminent demise represents grounds for rejoicing. But it will also necessitate legislative action, sooner rather than later.
 
Faced with the seemingly inevitable invalidation of our clearly unconstitutional law, the Legislature faces a choice: obey the Constitution voluntarily or have a federal court compel us to do so.  In the latter case, this will not be an inexpensive proposition; when a court determines that a state law violates basic constitutional rights, it possesses the authority – almost the obligation – to award counsel fees to the prevailing party.  At a time when every last penny of taxpayer resources is precious (to the extent that there is ever a time at which they are not), paying many hundreds of thousands of dollars (to err on the side of a very conservative number) in legal fees to defend the indefensible strikes me as a profoundly  misguided.
 
Put simply, time is not on the side of those who oppose recognition of our citizens’ constitutional rights.  Every minute we delay, keeping unconstitutional statutes upon our books, the  meter keeps ticking, running up legal fees the taxpayers will be compelled to bear.  While the Administration may labor under an obligation to defend the Legislature’s handiwork – however foolish – we do not labor under an obligation to persist in our error.  While, likely, not a few of our colleagues will object to complying with the Constitution, we will either do it ourselves or be forced to ignominiously admit that, even though we knew what the Constitution required, we refused to comply.  That those sworn to uphold the Constitution would revel in opposing its mandates, and passionately defend denying its basic protections to New Jersey citizens, is truly disturbing
 
I respectfully request, then, that The Chairman promptly schedule the above for a hearing, such that New Jersey can begin the process of complying with basic constitutional commands.
 
Respectfully submitted,
 
Michael Patrick Carroll

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