Scott Garrett Wants it Both Ways When it Comes to Gun Laws
Rob Jennings from The New Jersey Herald recently wrote an article on Scott Garrett and his consistent position on gun safety policy. In it Jennings made mention of Garrett’s remarks at the Sussex County Republican Convention on April 12th. Here’s what Garrett had to say:
“Obviously, we’ve had a number of series of tragedies, close by and in neighboring states, and across the country, but I applaud what’s trying to be done, both in this state and other states, in … committees where they actually want to have a thorough vetting and discussion about what is the underlying cause of those tragedies, as opposed to what is normally the case in politics, which is knee-jerk reaction and legislation and policy.
Scott Garrett and other Members of Congress with an “A” rating from the NRA are using a talking point that background checks wouldn’t have prevented Adam Lanza from killing his mother with a weapon from her arsenal and then moving on to murder 20 elementary school students and 6 of their teachers. On this narrow point they are correct. Adam Lanza never went through a background check, his mother did. Lanza didn’t purchase any of the weapons he used on that fateful day; his mother did. However, Mr. Garrett would prefer we simply shrug our shoulders in acknowledgement that nothing can be done at the Federal level and go home get back to our day-to-day lives and leave the job of protecting us from gun violence up to states. After all, Mr. Garrett is a “small government” guy who wants to leave such decisions in the hands of the individual states.
The problem Mr. Garrett either can’t see or ignores is that no matter how strong the guns laws are in New Jersey, it means practically nothing if guns laws in West Virginia are – to be it kindly – lax. Sometimes we’re 50 separate states and sometimes we’re one nation. And the reason I know this is New Jersey doesn’t declare war or sign trade treaties with foreign nations. Fifty States, united as one nation take on the tasks that no one state can properly address. Such is the case with gun safety. If we are only as strong as our weakest link; New Jersey’s strong link is rendered practically meaningless by the weak link that is West Virginia.
According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, New Jersey ranked 2nd out of 50 – having enacted nearly the strongest gun violence prevention legislation in the nation. Among other things, New Jersey:
- Requires permits for the purchase of any handgun, as well as a separate permit for persons purchasing long guns, both requiring a background check prior to issuance;
- Provides law enforcement discretion when issuing permits to carry concealed weapons;
- Prohibits the purchase or possession of a firearm by persons convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence offenses, and by persons subject to protective orders;
- Requires the licensing of all firearms dealers and their employees;
- Limits the number of handguns that may be purchased to one per month;
- Imposes a 7-day waiting period prior to the physical transfer of a handgun;
- Will require the sale of personalized handguns once such technology is available for retail sale;
- Prohibits the possession and transfer of assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines;
- Requires firearm owners to report the loss or theft of their firearms; and
- Requires all firearms dealers and ammunition sellers to maintain records of all acquisitions and dispositions of firearms and ammunition.
If individual states sealed their respective borders from other states we may be safe from gun violence. But we are an open nation with open borders between states and are thus subject to what happens in other nearby states like West Virginia which ranks 37th out of 50 - having some of the weakest gun safety laws in the country. Among other things, West Virginia does not:
- Require a background check prior to the transfer of a firearm between unlicensed individuals;
- Require firearms dealers to obtain a state license;
- Regulate the transfer or possession of assault weapons, 50 caliber rifles, or large capacity ammunition magazines;
- Require gun owners to obtain a license, register their firearms, or report lost or stolen firearms;
- Limit the number of firearms that may be purchased at one time;
- Impose a waiting period before the sale of a firearm;
- Regulate unsafe handguns (“junk guns” or “Saturday night specials”);
- Significantly regulate ammunition;
- Allow local governments to regulate firearms; or
- Give local law enforcement discretion to deny a concealed handgun permit.
In 2009, West Virginia ranked 14th among the states in number of gun deaths per capita. West Virginia is about a four-hour drive from the southern border of New Jersey. West Virginia is an exporter of guns used in violent crimes and New Jersey imports guns to be used in crimes because criminals have a hard time getting them here.
The only way to comprehensively address gun safety laws is at the Federal level.
To Mr. Garrett I would say,”Denying something you cannot perceive ends up becoming an argument for your limitations.”
In his quote, Garrett takes a back-handed shot at how policy is debated on the Federal level. By saying the states are doing it right implies the way things are done in Washington is off track. Magicians use sleight of hand to distract the audience from what is actually taking place. The same can be said of Scott Garrett. When he and his fellow NRA supporters start with a position of “no way” to any suggested strengthening to Federal gun safety laws, they’re demonstrating in clear terms that they have no interest in engaging in meaningful talks about protecting the public from any gun-related death or injury. Mr. Garrett proves my point by the legislation he cosponsors.
Scott Garrett chooses to cosponsor legislation which makes it easier for someone with a concealed weapon permit in one state to have that permit extend to another state even if that other state doesn’t allow people to carry concealed weapons. Federally, Mr. Garrett is all for imposing weaker gun safety laws on the states, but if someone starts talking about strengthening Federal gun laws he immediately falls back on “states rights, states rights.”
The Federal government needs to listen to the experts who possess actual crime statistics and know where criminals are getting guns and how they’re using them. Members of Congress need to remember that the Second Amendment to the Constitution is not absolute. Part of the amendment calls for “a well-regulated militia.” Start doing the job you were hired to do, Mr. Garrett.
Mr. Garrett, you are the Congressman from the 5th District of New Jersey, not the 5th District of “No.”