A church in Plainfield, NJ, set up a gun buyback program with local police. But a local attorney warns that the program is illegal.
Details of the gun buyback program
A collection of guns, including the sort of assault firearm illegal in New Jersey. Photo: user kosheahan (Flickr), CC BY 2.0 License
Shiloh Baptist Church in Plainfield, NJ set the program up. It ran last Saturday and will run again this Saturday (barring any court injunctions, of course). Seven churches, from four denominations, are taking part.
Anyone wanting to sell or “unload” a gun may bring it to one of these churches. The church staff will ask no questions and will pay as much as $200 for any firearm. Then someone—the program doesn’t say who—will destroy the guns.
The legal challenge
Attorney Evan F. Nappen of Eatontown, NJ, says, in effect, “Not so fast.” He and colleague Richard Gilbert wrote The NJ Gun Law Guide (available here). Now he offers a $5000 reward to anyone who can show whether and how the law allows a program like this. (Hat tip: David Codrea, National Gun Rights Examiner.)
Attorney Nappen knows of no New Jersey gun law statute allowing
- the anonymous surrender of firearms;
- the receipt of surrendered firearms by churches;
- the unlicensed transport of guns to churches; and
- the destruction without investigation of guns (which may be potential criminal evidence or stolen property that should be returned to their rightful owners).
Laws that the churches might be breaking
New Jersey’s gun laws are part of the New Jersey Criminal Code (NJSA 2C). Among other things, this code defines “assault firearms,” other weapons that no one may have, and the types of people who may not have weapons at all. Nappen says that this gun buyback program raises several other issues, any one of which would make the program unlawful. The law covers not only possession but transport of weapons. It does not allow anyone to surrender a weapon without giving his name and address. It does not allow anyone other than the local police chief or the New Jersey Superintendent of State Police to accept the surrender of a weapon. The State may agree not to prosecute someone for unlawful possession if he gives the weapon up. But that person is still liable, depending on how he got that weapon, and what he did with it before he gave it up.
The problem: if someone gives up a gun “with no questions asked,” and someone else destroys the gun, how is a district attorney to know that the person giving up the gun broke no laws other than the law against unlawful possession? What about the law against unlicensed transport? Suppose he stole the gun from someone else? Now that other person won’t get his gun back.
The real agenda
That last gives a clue to the real agenda. Even David Codrea didn’t mention this, though he has said before that gun buyback programs don’t work as those setting them up say they intend. Here someone could steal a gun and turn it in to this gun buyback program. The organizers will then destroy it. So the original owner never gets his gun back. And the police are “copacetic” with that?
Maybe because the police want not so much to stop the mayhem, as to disarm the people. Someone doesn’t get his gun back, though he broke no laws? Fine! He shouldn’t have a gun anyway. No one should, except a law-enforcement officer. That’s how a lot of police departments think.
This is the flip side of Operation Fast and Furious. That’s the federal program to run guns into Mexico (from two directions), to skew the statistics and excuse more gun control. (The National Rifle Association is suing over new gun control measures.) It serves the same end as this gun buyback program, and other programs like it, serve. And that is: to get guns, not so much “off the street” as out of the hands of the people.
The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution says,
A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
Aside from the legal issues that Nappen realizes, this gun buyback program violates the Constitution.
Featured article: the Constitution of the United States. Photo: National Archives