By Lee Williams
When I worked at a newspaper in Delaware, I was intimately aware that if I strayed across the border into New Jersey with any weapons, ammo or mags and got caught, I would likely spend the rest of my life in a state prison.
Back then, New Jersey officials were content with only targeting individual gun owners, either those who weren’t familiar with their crazy gun laws, or those from free states who may have taken a wrong turn.
Nowadays, things are different. New Jersey officials are actively targeting citizens of other states, who may have never even set foot in New Jersey.
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal is using “undercover” detectives to entrap firearms retailers and manufacturers – especially those in other states – in the hopes that the exorbitant fees and penalties he will extort from them will force the owners out of business.
This is a new kind of gun control.
So far, AG Grewal has targeted retailers who sell firearm components designed for home-builds and, of course, those who sells standard-capacity magazines.
Even the judges are in on the AG’s scheme. A New Jersey state court recently ordered a Florida firm to pay the state $150,000. Their crime? They refused to turn over their customers’ names and addresses to the Attorney General.
Grewal v. 22Mods4ALL
According to the civil complaint, 22Mods4ALL is a small, mom-and-pop retailer with less than 10 employees located in Longwood, Florida. 22Mods4ALL sells ARs and AR components, as well as the accessories you’d expect. (They actually have 5.56 in stock at $0.66 per round.)
I reached out to them seeking comment for this story, but have not heard back. I can’t say I blame them. They’re up against a team with unlimited resources paid for by taxpayer dollars. Besides, the prosecution seems very personal. Whoever wrote the civil complaint Grewal’s office filed against the small shop has a flair for the dramatic. It’s based upon emotion, rather than facts.
The complaint begins in El Paso, where the author describes a mass murder committed by an AK-47 and “extra magazines capable of holding at least 30 rounds of ammunition each.” Then he carts the reader off to Dayton, Ohio, and describes “a shooter equipped with an AR-15 style rifle, a 100-round drum magazine, and 250 rounds of ammunition.” Then it’s Parkland, Florida’s turn, followed by Tucson, Arizona and then, finally, New Jersey, where the author defines “large capacity magazine.”
“To prevent gun violence, and to mitigate the risk of mass shootings, the State of New Jersey has long banned possession of large capacity ammunition magazines (“LCMs”) — firearm magazines capable of holding more than the standard number of rounds provided by the manufacturer,” the complaint states.
You’ll notice that New Jersey’s LCM definition is flawed on its face. AR manufacturers designed 20- and 30-round magazines for the rifle – that’s the “standard number of rounds provided by the manufacturer.”
Regardless, the penalties are very clear: “Any person who knowingly possesses an LCM is guilty of a fourth-degree crime, punishable by fines of up to $10,000, and by a term of imprisonment of up to eighteen months,” the complaint states.
22Mods4ALL – allegedly – sold six 30-round magazines to “to New Jersey undercover detectives from the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice (“DCJ”),” the complaint states. During a second purchase, the gun shop allegedly sold the detective three more. The Attorney General then sent 22Mods4All a cease-and-desist letter, which the gun shop honored. It stopped shipping mags to New Jersey, but that wasn’t the end of the malicious prosecution.
“The Attorney General also demanded Defendant provide the details of all past sales of ammunition magazines capable of holding fifteen rounds or more to any New Jersey address since January 1, 2014, including the name and address of the purchaser and the specific ammunition magazine purchased,” the complaint states.
In other words, the AG wanted the names of any New Jersey residents who may have bought a magazine, which would likely have been followed by a knock on their front door. That may have been too much for the good folks at 22Mods4All who, evidently, respect their customers’ privacy and don’t want to see any of them carted off to prison.
“Defendant, despite repeated attempts at contact, has ignored the Subpoena for months. As a result, the CFA authorizes the Attorney General and the Director to obtain a judgment from the Superior Court directing compliance with the Subpoena,” the complaint states.
Last week, a New Jersey judge ruled that the gun shop owners must pay a civil fine of $150,000 for not cooperating with the AG’s subpoena and turning over a list of its customers’ names and addresses.
The New Jersey AG is weaponizing his office to push a political agenda, according to former Florida prosecutor Lisa Chittaro.
Last year, Chittaro ran for State Attorney of Sarasota County, but lost in the Republican primary to the incumbent. She had been endorsed by the National Rifle Association in the race.
“This is a crafty and questionable use of litigation,” Chittaro said. “Because of their elected position, this seems designed to impede and attack a legitimate business – a business that did not target the citizens of that state – for the sole purpose of attacking the Second Amendment.
“This attorney general is trying to harness access and regulate the spread of the internet, and hold a legitimate business accountable,” Chittaro said. “This is an attack on the free market, an attack on the Second Amendment – it’s an attack. They are using their office as a political weapon. They are pushing through their political agenda of gun control, and they are overreaching into the state of Florida. New Jersey is trying to put a legitimate Florida firm out of business.”
In my humble opinion, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has two reasons for his cross-border shenanigans. First, he wants to make a name for himself. That much is very clear. Second, he wants to close down gun shops – as many as he possibly can – because of his anti-rights political agenda.
As bad as AG Grewal tries to paint them, the good folks at 22Mods4All look like heroes. They should be commended for protecting their New Jersey customers – if they have any, of course. Standing up to a bully sounds good, but they’re standing up to a bully who can put them out of business. That takes balls – big brass ones. The problem is exacerbated because AG Grewal desperately needs a win – something he can show off to his constituents.
Right now, Attorneys general from 24 states have filed a brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn New Jersey’s ban on standard-capacity magazines.
“The Amici States the Attorneys General serve are among the forty-three states that permit the standard, eleven-plus capacity magazines that New Jersey has banned…and have advanced their compelling interests in promoting public safety, preventing crime, and reducing criminal firearm violence without a magazine ban such as the one here,” the brief states.
I certainly hope the Justices will take up the case. In the meantime, someone needs to take a hard look at Attorney General Grewal. He is clearly misusing the powers of his office to further his own political agenda.
There’s a term for that. It’s called public corruption, and it’s always been a problem in the Garden State.
The Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project wouldn’t be possible without you. Click here to make a tax deductible donation to support more pro-gun stories like this.
This story is part of the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project and is published here with permission.