By Theresa Inacker
Over the past several weeks, Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey has used peculiar words to describe his approach to handling the COVID-19 situation. Those words include “army,” “recruit,” “deploy,” and finally, “SWAT team.”
These words resound like a dog whistle for Second Amendment advocates: caution ahead.
In a recent press briefing, Governor Murphy outlined his plans for aggressive contact tracing in the state, stating that the contact tracers would be “augmented by a SWAT team as well, from the Department of Health.”
In his six-point plan revealed at the end of April, Murphy said described a desire for robust contact tracing: “We will need to recruit and deploy an army of contact tracers whose sole purpose will be to identify these individuals so we can follow up and ensure they do not contribute to further spread of COVID-19.”
Why does Murphy choose those particularly aggressive, militarized words when talking to the citizens and taxpayers of New Jersey?
In 2018, the Governor signed a “high capacity” magazine ban into law with no grandfathering. New Jersey was already capped at a reduced 15-round limit at the time. One cannot get a carry permit in New Jersey without proving “justifiable need,” a standard that is being challenged in several court cases pending before the US Supreme Court. including Cheeseman v. Polillo.
People who understand the true purpose of the Second Amendment know that it’s intended to keep power in the hands of The People. The Governor’s rhetoric leaves people questioning whether their government is threatening them. What kind of SWAT team is needed to reinforce the deployed “army” of contact tracers? What exactly does the Governor have in mind?
His words are designed to intimidate those who are prone to submission. For the tone deaf, these words roll off without any significant meaning. He could say it’s merely rhetorical flourish with no teeth, but couple this with the fact that his Attorney General has ordered the arrest of people who don’t obey Executive Orders, or those who have organized peaceable protests, he has closed our gun ranges, he actually shut down the NICS background check system until a suit was filed. I would say that his language must be taken at face value and taken seriously.
The Governor may be baiting people into a reaction. But if so, his timing is bad and his tactics are questionable. Is he hoping there will be civil unrest so that yet even tighter controls can be forced upon New Jersians?
Citizens are becoming increasingly concerned with the militarized rhetoric the state is using in its approach to the citzenry. Recently, a job opportunity was posted by a confidential source, explaining that “military experience required” for a COVID-19 Social Compliance Officer position in Bridgewater, New Jersey. It is unknown if this is a government position. Nonetheless, it does raise some serious questions.
If anyone thinks Second Amendment advocates are paranoid, I would suggest we are merely situationally aware. We are tuned in to being wary of government overreach because we have been subjected to it at the highest degrees by New Jersey politicians over the decades.
No concealed carry, ten-round magazine limits, permits to purchase, one handgun a month limitations, shutting down gun shops, ranges and the cessation of fingerprinting that’s required for background checks. These are not imaginary events. These are all the restrictions government has already imposed on us. So far.
Let’s hope that the Governor will dial back the militarized rhetoric to reduce the tension level among those of us who care about our gun rights. In the mean time, stay vigilant.
Theresa Inacker, an attorney and Second Amendment advocate, is a member of the US Supreme Court bar, the New Jersey delegate to The DC Project, and serves as the Communications Director for the Coalition of New Jersey Firearm Owners.