It’s no secret that the Garden State is hardly Eden for Second Amendment supporters, who are subjected there to some of the strictest firearm laws in the nation. But now Democrat Gov. Philip D. Murphy is targeting New Jersey’s law-abiding gun owners and would-be gun owners with proposals to increase by several orders of magnitude the mandatory fees state residents must pay to own or carry firearms. These anti-gun taxes would hit low-income residents the hardest, predictably pricing many of them out of the gun market entirely, even though they typically live in the state’s highest crime areas.
As reported in a New York Times article published on April 22, Murphy proposes to hike the fees for a firearm identification card from $5 to $100, a permit to own a firearm from $2 to $50, and a permit to carry a firearm from $20 to $400.
He additionally wants to impose excise taxes of 2.5% on firearms and 10% on ammunition.
The article states that although Murphy “is prohibited by state law from directing the new revenue toward specific programs,” he insisted “it would go toward anti-violence initiatives.”
The Times article mentions no evidence that Murphy’s plan would have any beneficial effect on violent crime, going so far as to say that “gun control advocates and researchers” were “not certain” that “higher fees alone would reduce violence.”
Indeed, as we have noted many times before, criminals typically go outside legitimate retail markets to obtain the firearms used in their offenses.
But research by economist John Lott reveals the most predictable outcome of raising fees for firearm-related permits, licenses, and mandatory training is simply to suppress the number of people who lawfully exercise their Second Amendment rights. Because fewer people can afford to participate in lawful gun markets, moreover, the promised funding for anti-violence initiatives never materializes. Meanwhile, the costs of policing low-income neighborhoods where law-abiding residents are disarmed may well increase.
All this presumably is not lost on Gov. Murphy, who believes imposing affirmative steps for voter registration (such as obtaining a state-issued ID) is tantamount to “voter suppression.” He can hardly escape the conclusion that punitive taxes aimed specifically at law-abiding firearm purchasers, especially when heaped upon the considerable delays and bureaucratic procedures New Jersey requires simply to keep a firearm in one’s home, are an even more drastic form of suppression.
Murphy’s proposals are so drastic and patently discriminatory that even some of his normally anti-gun Democrat colleagues are not enthusiastic. The Times quotes Democrat Stephen M. Sweeney, Senate President, as stating, “Just to check a box to say you did something, I’m not sure that’s necessary. I don’t think it’s going to raise a lot of money.” Former Colorado governor and current Democrat presidential candidate John Hickenlooper agreed in the Times article that raising costs would “reduce” participation in otherwise lawful activity. “But I’m not sure that’s the right way to make policy,” he admitted.
Murphy himself, however, seems unburdened by such concerns, proving that he’s just as comfortable with hypocrisy and double standards as he is with infringing the Second Amendment rights of New Jersey residents.