As the saying goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.” Democratic New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is taking the mantra to a new level by proposing “stronger gun control” in the Garden State. This time, he’s using the COVID-19 pandemic to raise taxes on law-abiding gun owners and those wishing to exercise their Second Amendment rights.
Gov. Murphy has tried his best during the crisis to penalize lawful gun owners, but now it will be up to the state legislature to approve or reject his new antigun proposals. New Jersey residents shouldn’t hold their breath as antigun Democrats control both chambers by wide margins.
Gun Control for You is Nothing New
More gun control has been a pillar for Gov. Murphy since he took office in 2018. In his first two years in office, he pushed for and signed into law 10 more-stringent gun control laws in a state already known for having some of the strictest gun laws in the country. In 2020, the spreading coronavirus pandemic gave him an opportunity to do even more, and he didn’t delay.
Nearly 5 million Americans became so concerned for their safety and that of their loved ones and property that purchased a firearm for the first time. The reasons were all around us. Reports of local law enforcement becoming stretched thin, criminals being released from jails and quickly committing violent crimes again, and now more recently violent riots and looting in cities and cries of “defund the police” have increased.
Gov. Murphy, who now wants to levy more fees and taxes to close the COVID budget gaps, actively worked to keep gun buyers out of stores. He shut down firearm retailers and related businesses, deeming them “non-essential” at a time when they were most essential. He faced immediate backlash and lawsuits, leading him to backtrack and allow retailers to open again. Gov. Murphy tried explaining his reasoning, stating “I wasn’t thinking about the Bill of Rights.”
Raising Taxes as Means for More Gun Control
New Jersey is already known as a high-taxed blue state operating in the red. Now, to address next year’s budget shortfall and seeing an opportunity to further squelch the Second Amendment, Gov. Murphy proposed massive taxes and fees on firearms and ammunition such that he’d price out thousands of law-abiding citizens from exercising their God-given rights enshrined and protected by the Second Amendment.
Murphy’s budget proposal attempts to close a $5.6 billion – with a “B” – hole in the Garden State by hiking taxes and fees on firearm services and businesses that might generate $6 million. That amounts to one tenth of one percent. It’s antigun window dressing and the governor knows it.
Gov. Murphy’s proposed antigun increases include raising the handgun purchasing permit fee 2,400 percent from $2 to $50; the cost of a firearm ID card by 1,900 percent from $5 to $100; the price of a handgun carry permit 7,900 percent from $50 to $400; the fee for a gun retail dealer license by 9,900 percent from $50 to $500; and the fee for a firearm manufacturer 900 percent from $150 to $1,500. There are, or course, additional fee increases as well.
If it all sounds familiar, it is. Gov. Murphy tried and failed at this scheme before. This time, though, he’s tying it to a pandemic.
With more New Jersey handgun applications submitted so far in 2020 than in 2018 and 2019 combined, it’s no wonder law-abiding firearm owners, as well as those considering purchasing a gun for the first time, feel threatened. In trying to persuade the Democratic-controlled New Jersey legislature to approve his budget, Gov. Murphy assured elected officials these are “judiciously” considered hikes that are needed. In other words, be thankful the punishment doesn’t go further.
Antigun Birds of a Feather
Gov. Murphy isn’t alone in using the pandemic to infringe on the constitutional rights of lawful Americans. Gov. Murphy’s northern neighbor, New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, behaved similarly as did New Mexico Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. These three governors have something else in common. They all forced gun stores to close during the pandemic despite the Department of Homeland Security saying gun stores are essential business.
So far this year more than 5 million Americans felt so compelled to protect themselves and their families that for the first time they exercised their Second Amendment rights and purchased a firearm. Thousands are from states with these governors at the top.
Punishing those who exercise their rights is abhorrent. Using it as an excuse to cover for poor leadership during a health crisis is not the sort of behavior citizens should expect from their governors.
Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.