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Facts help in debating NJ gun laws

As has often been said, “People are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.” Over the last week or so, this newspaper has published a number of letters regarding New Jersey gun laws. These letters have contained misinformation and outright falsehoods, based on Internet chain letters and political party talking points.

Please let me respond to just a few of the points contained in these letters, injecting a little truth into the conversation as I proceed:

In response to Bruce Eden: The German government did, indeed, change their gun laws in 1938, following the election of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party. However, the bill that was adopted, “Regulations Against Jews’ Possession of Weapons,” actually relaxed laws aimed at non-Jewish German citizens. These earlier, stricter laws had been enacted in 1928 in the wake of World War I, long before Hitler held any position of power. So, the fallacy of general German disarmament of the citizenry following the rise of Nazism is bunk, regardless of what various bogus chain E-mails have to say on the matter.

In response to Bill Thompson: Mr. Thompson’s argument seems to be that he has a First Amendment right to a “sense of security” and that this right somehow requires the nullification of the Second Amendment and taking away the rights of his fellow citizens. Well, let me be brief on this point: No, it does not. Nowhere in that document is there any mention of a “right to a sense of security.”

Mr. Thompson further compares gun ownership to driving a car and a few other activities that require licensing or background checks under government regulation. Here’s the problem with this line of argument: None of the things mentioned are rights that are protected by the Constitution. They are — every one of them — privileges granted by the government, which the government can take away. Firearm ownership is a right, not a privilege. Therefore it is not subject to the same type of regulation as driving a car, for example.

In other words, the right to own a gun is presumed under the Constitution, whereas the privilege of driving a car is not. One must prove that he is worthy of being a granted a driver’s license, which the government may grant or deny as it sees fit. On the other hand, under our Constitution, a person possesses the right to own a gun, a right that he can forfeit only through malfeasance or some other offense leading to the revocation of that right.

Finally, Mr. Thompson goes on at length about the need for background checks on gun purchasers in New Jersey. Please allow me to enlighten Mr. Thompson about what exactly is required to buy a gun in this state:

First, one must apply for and receive a Firearm Purchaser Identification Card (often shortened, incorrectly, to FOID). To receive this card, one must apply the local police department and be fingerprinted for background checks by the local police, New Jersey State Police, and the FBI, as well as a mental health background check. It generally takes over 30 days for these checks to come back and for the Chief of Police to grant the ID card.

The Firearm Purchaser Identification Card is good for long guns, like rifles and shotguns. It is also required for air rifles and BB guns. However, in order to buy a handgun, one must acquire a permit for each handgun separately and go through essentially the same process every single time. So, buying a handgun takes at minimum 30 days, not to mention the cost of the State Police background check, that must be paid with a postal money order. After waiting 30 days for the permit to purchase a handgun and subsequently making a purchase, buying a second handgun then requires yet another 30-day waiting period. In all cases, National Instant Check System (NICS) checks are performed at the time of purchase by the dealer selling the gun, whether it’s a rifle, shotgun, pistol, or BB gun.

So, in short: There are least three background checks on the purchase of each and every handgun legally bought in New Jersey.

Mr. Eden, but especially Mr. Thompson, have spent an awful lot of space in the newspaper lately spreading bad information.

Rob Tambini