Posted: 1/19/2001 3:11:44 PM EST
Gun groups challenge N.J. assault-weapons lawFriday, January 19, 2001
Gun groups challenge N.J. assault-weapons law
By Joseph A. Slobodzian
INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Gun enthusiasts challenged New Jersey's 11-year-old restriction on
military-style assault weapons in federal appeals court yesterday, claiming the
law violated the right of sportsmen to associate and exposed them to unforeseen
New Jersey's law - considered one of the nation's toughest - is so vague and
"overbroad" that it is almost meaningless, Stephen P. Halbrook, the lawyer for
the gun owners, told the three judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third
"There is no way [for state officials] to monitor this law," Halbrook said,
adding that it left law-abiding assault-weapon owners at the whim of a county
prosecutor's decision to file criminal charges.
But New Jersey Deputy Attorney General Michael J. Williams argued that the law
had proved itself since Gov. Jim Florio signed it in 1990.
"This was a legitimate legislative response to the clear danger that assault
weapons pose to New Jersey citizens," Williams added.
Williams said his office urges local prosecutors to evaluate possible criminal
cases individually and remain open to the arguments of legitimate gun
The judges listened for about 35 minutes before holding the case for further
The Coalition of New Jersey Sportsmen, two South Jersey gun retailers, and two
gun manufacturers sued the state in 1996 over the assault-weapons law, which
bans the sale and ownership of 37 models of semiautomatic firearms and others
that are "substantially identical."
Basically, the law covers weapons that have detachable magazines with more than
15 bullets and semiautomatic shotguns that hold more than six cartridges.
The law's only exception lets people own such weapons if they show they are
sport shooters who belong to and fire the weapon at a gun club.
U.S. District Judge Joseph H. Rodriguez dismissed the lawsuit in April 1999,
leading to yesterday's appeal.
Halbrook focused his arguments on two areas - the law's purported ambiguity, and
the provision requiring gun club membership. He said the law's definitions could
result in the banning of newer gun models, and the prosecution of gun owners,
which was not intended when the law was enacted.
Nor was there any way for the state to ensure that purchasers of assault weapons
maintained their gun-club memberships after acquiring the firearms, Halbrook
He urged the judges to follow the lead of the Sixth Circuit, which in 1998
invalidated a similar assault-weapons ban in Columbus, Ohio.
Halbrook also argued that the law violated gun owners' First Amendment right of
free association by requiring them to belong to a gun club to legally own an
assault weapon. Many gun-club members are supporters of President-elect George
W. Bush or are National Rifle Association members, he said, and some
assault-weapon enthusiasts may not agree with their political views.
That argument drew skeptical questioning from the appeals judges.
"There are all kinds of gun clubs," said Judge Jane R. Roth. "A member doesn't
have to belong to the NRA."
Joseph A. Slobodzian's e-mail address is [email protected] © 2000
Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.
I think this might be worth following. If they have success in NJ, maybe Kali has a chance repealing at least BS23 or even RR89.
Deputy AG Williams really needs to get his head out of his a**. Loser!
You mean ASS don't you!
[i]I like this site. Much less censoring. You can really tell em how fucking feel [-!-!-][/i]
Less censorship is good! Are all the moderators still trying to get into the old site?
The expanded legends are cool, too.
Notice that they didn't raise the obvious arguement - that it violates the Second Amendment.
Maybe it's not so obvious.
Maybe, we need to pursue a different path in contesting such legislation.
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