Treating nice people like criminals isn’t likely to enhance respect for the law.
That’s a tough lesson anti-gun officials in New Jersey and Canada are learning now that deadlines are past or nearly arrived for certain newly-enacted gun control measures.
Both localities are apparently experiencing widespread noncompliance with new requirements for firearm owners, despite provisions in the laws that threaten stiff punishment for those who don’t obey.
New Jersey gun owners faced a Dec. 10 deadline for compliance with a state ban on magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds.
Residents in possession of formerly legal magazines had to surrender, destroy, transfer, or modify them or face felony penalties of up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Opponents of the law had challenged it in court, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit denied the petition in a Dec. 5 ruling.
This led New Jersey’s Attorney General Gurbir Grewal to exalt on Twitter that the decision was a “[b]ig win for public safety and law enforcement safety!”
It’s hard to see how that could be so, however, given (among other things) that both enforcement officials and New Jersey residents seem content to simply ignore the dispossession mandate.
The New Jersey State Police answered a news outlet’s request to elaborate on how they would enforce the new magazine ban by referring the reporter to the Attorney General’s Office. That office, however, had no comment.
When pressed on specific possible enforcement scenarios, a public information officer at the attorney general’s office stated, "We've answered your query. … We have no comment."
Another writer on firearm-related issues was told by sources within the New Jersey State Police that they had received no guidance from the attorney general’s office on how to enforce the ban, nor did they have any current plans to investigate suspected violations.
That same writer attempted to determine whether any magazines had been surrendered by asking the governor’s office, the attorney general’s office, the state police, and several local police departments. In each case, the entity either refused to comment or reported that no magazines had been surrendered. The writer has since filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the state police and is awaiting a response.
A journalist for Reason.com embarked on a similar exercise and was likewise unable to substantiate any magazines having been surrendered. As he pointed out, there are other possible means of complying with the law short of surrender, but there is no evidence those options are being used, either.
Thus, Garden State residents have either been discretely dealing with the matter personally or perhaps not dealing with it at all. With some one million estimated gun owners in New Jersey, it’s notable that not a single agency would confirm having received a surrendered magazine. Then again, this is perhaps not surprising, given that nobody knows how many non-compliant magazines remain in New Jersey or who might have them.
And it’s not just gun-loving Americans who are displaying skepticism toward newly-enacted gun control. Even some of our assiduously polite neighbors to the north may be thumbing their chilly noses at recent anti-gun mandates.
After the Canadian national government scrapped its failed long gun registry, the territory of Quebec enacted long gun registration requirements of its own that went into effect early in 2018. The territory’s public security minister improbably claimed at the time that the measure would “both prevent and solve crimes.”
Nearly a year later, and with penalties of up to $5,000 set to take effect later this month, the Montreal Gazette is reporting that less than 18% of the guns estimated to be covered by the law have been registered.
According to that article: “The government has put the number of long guns — mostly shotguns and rifles — in Quebec at roughly 1.6 million. But since the registry opened last January, only 284,125 guns had been declared, Public Security Department spokeswoman Louise Quintin said.”
Ironically, a supporter of the Quebec registry told the Gazette that the registry “is essential because guns cannot be controlled if the government doesn’t know how many there are and where they are.”
What the backers of the measure fail to appreciate, however, is that the registry itself is unenforceable for exactly the same reasons.
This fact, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have escaped over 80% of the territory’s already overly-burdened long gun owners.
Only time will tell if New Jersey and Quebec will try to back up the dubious and high-minded public safety rhetoric that accompanied the enactment of these gun control laws with enforcement action against otherwise law-abiding residents.
In the meantime, it may not just be an appreciation for hockey that unites New Jerseyans and Québécoises, but antipathy for overreaching and silly gun control as well.