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Posted: 10/17/2004 3:49:00 AM EST
Questions cloud ban on assault weapons


Published in the Asbury Park Press 10/17/04
By TOM BALDWIN
GANNETT STATE BUREAU
TRENTON -- New Jersey's assault weapons law, touted as the nation's toughest, is a bit off target.

The law contains language that leaves even judges at odds over a key provision. And that fact has enabled an undetermined number of the lethal guns -- despite boasts of politicians -- to be secreted in closets and attics.

The provision is so muddied that even the crafter of the measure, Attorney General Peter C. Harvey, holds an interpretation at odds with its most forceful proponent, former Gov. James J. Florio, who signed the ban into law in 1990.

The little-discussed issue has some county prosecutors baffled and angered that the law appears, at least, to create two classes of citizens -- those who are subject to the law and those who ignore it and, for now, cannot be prosecuted.

Case history shows the latter group does ignore it. They are policemen.

The question is this: Under New Jersey law, can police officers possess banned assault weapons, registered or not, for private use if the possession has nothing to do with their police work?

Harvey says they can. Florio says no way.

The matter takes on added importance now because a federal assault-weapons ban expired this year, while New Jersey's endures. Some in law enforcement fear a new market will emerge in which weapons banned in the Garden State are smuggled across state lines.

Gov. McGreevey has asked Harvey to form a task force to explore how to keep these assault weapons -- which State Police Superintendent Col. Joseph "Rick" Fuentes has warned can pierce police body armor -- out of New Jersey.

Ironically, some say it was law enforcement that pushed the Florio-era Legislature to grant police the right to privately own assault weapons in exchange for support for the legislation from the statewide Police Benevolent Association, or PBA.

Support for the law from the PBA -- with more than 30,000 members, the state's largest police union -- arrived late in the legislative process. And the PBA has since sided in court with the argument that police can privately own assault weapons.

"It's not the clearest language," PBA lawyer Robert Fagella said in an interview. "But they can possess. That's what the current law says."
Florio says there was no agreement, but two lawmakers recall things differently.

"There was no deal," Florio told Gannett. "Not at all."

Former state Sen. John F. Russo, D-Ocean, and former Assemblyman Joseph A. Mecca, D-Passaic, said they recalled municipal police seeking exemptions from the gun law. But the men said details from nearly 15 years ago have become hazy.

"I thought there was a deal, but I don't know that the language is in the law," Mecca said last week.

Suddenly, the law that has attracted so much attention for more than a decade is termed vague and subject to interpretation. The incoming acting governor, Senate President Richard J. Codey, D-Essex, said it should be amended to make the prohibition clear.

"We didn't do it right the first time," Codey said.

A pair of cases underscores how the New Jersey law, which bans all automatic weapons and certain semi-automatic weapons, appears flawed.

Two years ago, police in Egg Harbor Township, on the mainland outside of Atlantic City, went to the home of Mark Ciambrone to deliver a restraining order telling him to stay away from his wife.

Ciambrone had been an officer on the police department in Margate, a beachfront community just south of the gambling resort on Absecon Island. Police told Ciambrone he had to surrender all weapons in his possession, whereupon officers discovered the policeman owned two weapons that fell under the state's ban.

Ciambrone's lawyer, Louis Bar-bone, argued police were al-lowed to privately possess such guns. Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Michael A. Donio disagreed, prompting Atlantic County Prosecutor Jeffrey S. Blitz to say the law covered everyone, even cops.

Months earlier, another police sergeant, Kenneth Moose of the Far Hills department in Somer-set County, had been suspend-ed pending a psychiatric evalu-ation. Later Moose, too, was found by other officers to pos-sess a banned weapon.

His lawyer claimed the law al-lowed this, and the judge in Superior Court in Somerville, Edward M. Coleman, agreed that Moose was exempted by the law.

New Jersey was now in the position where its heralded gun law was being interpreted two ways in similar cases by two judges in separate counties. And Harvey -- who wrote the measure back in 1990 -- then irked some prosecutors by tell-ing them to back off.

In Atlantic County, the case against Ciambrone was dropped. Somerset County prosecutors were told by Har-vey not to appeal the Moose decision.

Wrote Harvey, "A number of questions have been raised con-cerning the authority of munic-ipal police and other law-en-forcement officers to possess privately owned assault fire-arms."

Harvey wrote that provisions of the law conflicted on the is-sue, adding, "The relationship and interplay between these two statutory provisions is un-clear."

The attorney general has sought opinions on the law from his own Division of Crim-inal Justice, the County Prose-cutors Association and the Po-lice Training Commission. He promised a resolution by July, but none was forthcoming.

Harvey's spokesman, John Hagerty, said the law will be amended, likely in the next few months.

"We will be making legislative changes," Hagerty said.

Florio said the exemptions al-low law-enforcement officers to carry otherwise banned assault weapons when they're on duty, if they're trained and regularly tested.

"There was no blank check" for off-duty or retired police, Florio said.

Harvey said the law's exemp-tion appears to apply to all trained, active-duty law-en-forcement officers, though not retired ones.

"Yes, it allows for active-duty police officers to own them. . . . It wasn't a deal. The assump-tion is that police have a differ-ent responsibility from an aver-age citizen," Harvey said.

"This is all a surprise to us," said Bryan Miller, executive di-rector of Ceasefire New Jersey, which used to be called New Jersey Citizens to Stop Gun Vi-olence when it helped lead the call for Florio's gun ban 14 years ago.

"We believed that the law made it illegal for everyone in New Jersey to own these weapons, except for the very, very tiny minority. I'm shocked. I'm sure the citizens of New Jersey would be shocked," Miller said.
Link Posted: 10/17/2004 4:13:24 AM EST
Well, I'm not a citizen of New Jersey and I'm shocked that the citizens of New Jersey would be shocked over somthing as shocking as this.
Link Posted: 10/17/2004 4:37:54 AM EST
One of the originators of the SAW ban was Peter Harvey himself. I believe there was a deal struck at the time to exempt police, that is why he dropped the charges against Mark Ciambrone and Kenneth Moose. The law was placed into NJS 2C:39-5, where police are exempt at all times. Had it been placed into 2C:39-3, where the high capacity mag law is, they would not.
If one cares to review the history of these two cases, I have compiled a collection of news articles HERE. BTW, the status of the 120 day survey will be 7 months old and not concluded as of yet.
Link Posted: 10/17/2004 6:26:15 AM EST
Fellow Jersey gun owners, Brace yourselves. Senator Codey hates guns, and will ban assault weapons for cops, and then ban all semi-auto rifles and shotguns. Yes your Remington 11-87 and or 7400 and ruger 10/22 will be on the hit list. He will also ban all high capacity magazines over 10 rounds, and rifle mags will be limited to five rounds. You see my fellow comrades in NJ it is ok to be a sexual deviant, corrupt politician, and let convicted felons out of prison early, But god forbid you own a weapon you have a right to own. When the laws are passed the state will make an example out of those that do not comply. He will also push for a total ban on handguns eventually.
Link Posted: 10/17/2004 6:46:22 AM EST
[Last Edit: 10/17/2004 6:47:55 AM EST by Rudison]
There was a Po-Po in the next town buying up "Toys" just before the ban.
He claimed the excemption allowed him to continue to own them BUT was reluctant to provide a receipt or FID #.
He's been "Retired" due to years of misusing his uniform allowance...seems right.

Link Posted: 10/18/2004 2:47:40 PM EST
I am an LEO and there was a deal.

Most cops did not want the ban. The PBA leadership strong-armed the PBA delegates to vote in support of the ban. In return for the support the wording of the statute was such that LEOs could possess AW at all times in the state.

When Codey takes over we are all in trouble.

Go Vote!

Mike
Link Posted: 10/18/2004 5:46:25 PM EST

Originally Posted By MAP:
I am an LEO and there was a deal.

Most cops did not want the ban. The PBA leadership strong-armed the PBA delegates to vote in support of the ban. In return for the support the wording of the statute was such that LEOs could possess AW at all times in the state.

When Codey takes over we are all in trouble.

Go Vote!

Mike

Make a deal with the Devil and you'll get burned at some point.
Link Posted: 10/18/2004 6:44:26 PM EST
[Last Edit: 10/18/2004 6:45:12 PM EST by garr]

Originally Posted By MAP:
I am an LEO and there was a deal.

Most cops did not want the ban. The PBA leadership strong-armed the PBA delegates to vote in support of the ban. In return for the support the wording of the statute was such that LEOs could possess AW at all times in the state.When Codey takes over we are all in trouble.

Go Vote!

Mike



Sounds Illegal, The NYC Council Tried to Exempt Cops from the NYC ban, The Lawyers advised the Council it would be Illegal, So Cops in NYC got screwed along with all the other Serfs.
Link Posted: 10/22/2004 11:54:17 AM EST
[Last Edit: 10/22/2004 11:56:11 AM EST by Rovert]
Garr, in the state of New Jersey, legality has nothing to do with morality or reality. This F'd up state just makes up whatever rules they want as they go along to keep the serfs working and paying taxes.

Take the Torricelli/Lautenberg "bait and switch" for example. When Torricelli's scandals raised such a stink that he began sliding in the polls against Forrester, the Democrats, led by Richard "Dick" Codey, pressured the Supreme Court to rubber stamp a swap of candidates despite the law, under the pretext of giving NJ voters a 'choice'. Yet where was that same Supreme Court when it came time to giving voters a choice after McGreedy? Silent as the grave, and when a suit was pressed, the petition was declined.

Those of you in other states, pay attention to what happens here, because if you don't help RKBA organizations fight the fight here, this cancer will spread to your state, next.

Hey, Pennsylvania residents... YOU'RE NEXT!

Respectfully,
Robert Kreisler
President
New Jersey Coalition for Self Defense
Link Posted: 10/22/2004 6:34:48 PM EST
Originally Posted By Rovert:
Garr, in the state of New Jersey, legality has nothing to do with morality or reality. This F'd up state just makes up whatever rules they want as they go along to keep the serfs working and paying taxes.


You are correct Sir. That's why we Serfs have no chance of winning any kind of pro second amendent rights in this state. I'm a member of the NRA, past member of the NJ Coalition of NJ Sportsman ( remember them? ) for over 40 years. I've been to Statehouse rallys, written many letters, donated a hell of a lot of money to the NRA and still we LOSE more and more or our second amendment rights. I vote ,I call talk shows and I bend the ear of anyone who will listen for our cause. I had to give up 22 so called "assualt rifles" before the NJ ban in 1990 that I spent 20 years collecting because of Gov. Florio and his BS AWB!

I won't give up as I have never given up but I don't see anything changing in our state. Sorry to be pesssimistic but we have only slide down the slippery slope and will continue to do so. How can you ever defeat the stronghold of Democrats in our state? Sorry but it ain't going to happen here!

I'll fight to the end but it won't make any difference.
Link Posted: 10/22/2004 6:41:45 PM EST

Ironically, some say it was law enforcement that pushed the Florio-era Legislature to grant police the right to privately own assault weapons in exchange for support for the legislation from the statewide Police Benevolent Association, or PBA.

Support for the law from the PBA -- with more than 30,000 members, the state's largest police union -- arrived late in the legislative process. And the PBA has since sided in court with the argument that police can privately own assault weapons.



Ya, you guys are on our side alright.
Link Posted: 10/23/2004 3:53:29 AM EST

Originally Posted By captainpooby:

Ironically, some say it was law enforcement that pushed the Florio-era Legislature to grant police the right to privately own assault weapons in exchange for support for the legislation from the statewide Police Benevolent Association, or PBA.

Support for the law from the PBA -- with more than 30,000 members, the state's largest police union -- arrived late in the legislative process. And the PBA has since sided in court with the argument that police can privately own assault weapons.



Ya, you guys are on our side alright.



What the PBA does on a state level is not reflective of what the rank and file officer wants. As a side note the PBA president at the time was indicted for stealing from the PBA members.

If support for the NJ AWB was predicated upon a direct vote from all PBA members it would have failed.

Mike
Link Posted: 10/23/2004 4:10:29 AM EST
Link Posted: 10/23/2004 4:15:02 AM EST

Originally Posted By MAP:
What the PBA does on a state level is not reflective of what the rank and file officer wants. As a side note the PBA president at the time was indicted for stealing from the PBA members.

If support for the NJ AWB was predicated upon a direct vote from all PBA members it would have failed.

Mike



What you guys have to keep in mind is the anti-gun orgs are not your friends. They are using LE endorsements of anti-gun legislation solely for propaganda purposes. When they are done disarming the citizens they will turn their attention to disarming LEO's. We had a local anti-gun county legislator who introduced legislation to prevent county LEO's from carrying firearms off-duty.
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