A pair of seemingly pointless bills in New Jersey could have drastic consequences for shooting ranges in that state, and for any residents or out-of-staters who shoot at an NJ target range. For a lot of facilities, including state-maintained public ranges, passage of the bills would mean certain closure.
According to a post from the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs, on Monday, December 5, the state Assembly Law & Public Safety Committee is scheduled to hear bills A4179 and A4180 which are packaged as “suicide prevention” bills.
The ANJRPC says the bills “would have little actual impact on suicide but represent a massive attack on every shooting range in the state and every person who uses them.
“The legislation as written also impact rangework by active and retired law enforcement, military members, and various agency professionals.”
The bills would require the owner or operator of every range and gun club to verify that every range user has an FID card, NJ carry permit (LOL), or pistol purchase permit, along with a government-issued photo ID, every single time that person uses the range. Many ranges and clubs require presentation of these documents when a person shoots for the first time or signs up for a membership, but not after.
“That is an impossible burden for most ranges to meet—most ranges are unstaffed or staffed sporadically by volunteers. Few ranges have staff during all operating hours. No shooting activity could occur on any range that is not staffed to verify credentials,” the post says.
And this doesn’t just go for rental guns, it would apply to people using their own firearms at the range as well. The bills also ban all temporary transfer on a range unless the range verifies the credentials of both the transferor and transferee, so that means anyone teaching someone how to shoot would not be able to pick up the firearm and then hand it back to the student, or you couldn’t go to the range and allow your friend to shoot one of your guns.
“This impacts a huge swath of Second Amendment activity, including training, competition, target practice, open houses, range guests, hunter education, women’s events, etc,” the post says.
“The bills, sponsored by Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D28), are extremely overbroad and wide-ranging in their effect. Instead of narrowly addressing a specific limited problem, the bills cast an enormous net over every range in the state and every person that uses them, and would dramatically disrupt traditional Second Amendment activity that has occurred for decades without incident. Many ranges would be forced to close, and those able to stay open would be severely burdened and disrupted.”
“We have communicated our concerns to Assemblyman Caputo and have been told that bill amendments are forthcoming, but our request to postpone the December 5 hearing has not been accepted. As a result, based on past experience, there will likely be confusion at the hearing Monday, as it is declared that last-minute amendments (that have not been fully analyzed) address our concerns, when in fact they do not. We have seen this scenario many times in the past on firearms legislation and we have not seen one instance where last-minute amendments have adequately addressed gun owner concerns.”
The first question might be, how exactly are these measure meant to prevent suicides?
“Possession of a firearms ID card, pistol purchase permit, or carry permit is not an assurance that someone is not depressed or will not become depressed in the future, nor would the legislation prevent those intent on committing suicide from doing so,” the post says. “Possession of a firearms credential is merely an indication of prior history, not present mental state. Mental health professionals opine that the most effective way to reduce suicide risk is to recognize warning signs based on present mental state, yet the legislation does not in any way address present mental state, nor does it pose solutions targeted to the specific problem it seeks to address. As written, all the legislation does is harm ranges and gun clubs, and interfere with the exercise of Second Amendment rights in New Jersey.”
The issue was brought into the spotlight in July of this year when a man killed himself at a Woodland Park shooting range, the second suicide at a New Jersey gun range in the span of a few months. But as this story from nj.com points out, the suicide in question represents one incident compared to a total of 1.2 million people who have used that specific range alone in the past three years since it opened.
According to nj.com, there have been a total of six fatal shooting at New Jersey gun ranges in the past two years, all suicides. About 9 million people call the state home as of 2015.
The impact could be further reaching than many realize. The ANJRPC says the bills would ban any out-of-state shooters from using New Jersey ranges, as they are written, because you have to have a state-issued FID card. Additionally, FID cards look different depending in which municipality and in which decade they were printed.
The way the bills are written, you wouldn’t be able to legally shoot a gun in New Jersey, until you become a gun owner, which makes very little sense, as most people considering gun ownership or a shooting sport try a gun out first without being investigated by the state police in order to obtain an FID card.
Additionally, the state’s hunter education firearms safety classes require live fire range exercises, and the state makes firearms available to participants who don’t have their own firearms. The legislation would prevent this activity unless both the teacher and student have credentials, which is not always the case, as you don’t have to own a gun to hunt with one.
Out-of-state hunters wouldn’t be able to sight-in their guns before a hunt at unstaffed wildlife management area ranges maintained by the state, which would be closed due to the staffing requirement.
Any shooting competitors coming to New Jersey for an event would be forbidden from shooting at said event unless they have NJ credentials, and why would they if they live in another state?
The post says that active law enforcement rare have any of the credentials required by the bills, since they have a badge. The legislation would prevent them and retired members of law enforcement from training and qualifying at ranges in NJ. Additionally, a whole host of other military, agency, and other personnel exempted under NJ law from needing an FID card in the first place would be impacted.
If the laws go into effect, people who want to shoot in the state will likely apply for an FID card. It is well known that the permitting process in New Jersey can already be extremely slow and the ANJRPC’s Permitting StrikeForce says they’ve documented rampant abuse of the system throughout the state’s 565 municipalities.
“Many applicants have waited more than a year to receive permits that are required by law to be granted in 30 days. The legislation could stimulate tens of thousands of new applications, which would overwhelm the existing dysfunctional system and slow it even further, significantly burdening Second Amendment rights.”
Is there anything else? Yep. Absurdly, the bills also ban the use of BB guns and airguns at ranges without an FID card, since NJ treats those items as “firearms” in regards to transportation and use.
Any way you slice it, these two bills seem to be poorly written, poorly thought out, and utterly devoid of practical purpose other than to infringe on the rights of the state’s residents.
The ANJRPC asks that gun owners contact all members of the Assembly Law & Public Safety Committee and Assemblyman Caputo to tell them to oppose the bills or postpone the December 5 hearing.