As reported, the state of New Jersey may soon prevent law abiding citizens from purchasing more than one handgun per month. Those pushing for this law ignore the fact that similar laws have failed to prevent crime in the past, that such a law imposes an unreasonable burden on law abiding citizens, and that it is wrongful to arbitrarily limit the exercise of a constitutional right:
“One handgun per month” laws don’t work
A handful of states have tried limiting the number of handguns that can purchased to one per month, only to see crime increase. This really shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the fact that criminals have many way to acquire their guns, other than walking in to a gun store. Criminals can steal guns from a cop, or take guns from police evidence rooms. They can buy from international gun smugglers, or from their local street gangs. Another option is to go visit their local anti gun activist, who is secretly and illegally has guns. Or they can turn to the increasingly sophisticated drug smugglers, who certainly would have no problem sneaking machine guns into the country, right alongside the cocaine and other narcotics. Even countries that have total bans on handguns, such as the UK, have no shortage of gun smugglers, or people who can make guns at home. Indeed, even relatively unsophisticated manufacturing operations in developing countries can produce illegal guns and ammunition on a staggering scale. Finally, note that there are hundreds of millions of guns in the United States already. No matter how one looks at it, guns aren’t anywhere, no matter what laws are passed.
“One handgun per month” laws impose an unreasonable burden on law abiding citizens
I’ve heard some non-gun-owning people state that a law abiding citizen has no reason to purchase more than one handgun per month. This is simply not true, and is the result of these non-gun-owners lack of experience.
First, handguns are tools that can be used for a variety of purposes, ranging from self defense, to target practice, to hunting. Just as a golfer would not use the same club to tee off and to putt, a gun owner generally wouldn’t use the same handgun for long range target practice and short range target practice. Similarly, a handgun suitable for hunting is likely not ideal for self defense. Different handguns are useful for different purposes, which is likely why most handgun owners have more than one handgun. Given the legitimate reasons to own more than one handgun, it defies logic to say that these purchases can’t occur all at once, or over a short period of time.
Second, gun owners tend to collect guns the same way that people collect other items related to their hobbies. Few coin collectors have just one coin, and few stamp collectors have just one stamp. Avid golfers generally have a great many golf clubs. So too with gun owners. Indeed, I recently had the pleasure of seeing a friend’s rather amazing gun collection which totals over 200 rifles, pistols, and shotguns, some of which date back over 200 years. Many gun collectors will meet at gun shows or auctions (just as stamp and coin collectors do), and restricting handgun purchases to one per month would effectively destroy such shows. Similarly, a collector who just bought a handgun yesterday may come across a hard to find pistol the next week, only to have this law prevent them from purchasing it.
Finally, guns can be defective, just like any other tool. I know of a couple people who have purchased a brand new handgun, only to have it require warranty work within the first 30 days. With a law preventing the purchase of 2 handguns in a month, a citizen who just bought a gun for defense against a stalker or violent ex could end up without their means of protection, at the worst possible time. I could go on listing examples, but the point should be clear: restricting gun purchases to one per month would impose a heavy burden upon gun owners, especially those that collect guns. Given the fact that such laws don’t reduce crime, it is even harder to justify the imposition of this burden upon lawful gun purchasers.
It is wrongful to arbitrarily limit the exercise of a constitutional right
Perhaps most importantly, it is not justifiable to arbitrarily limit the exercise of a constitutional right. It would be unconstitutional for the government to say that citizens can only speak freely once per month (1st Amendment), only refuse to incriminate themselves once per month (5th Amendment), or to demand a lawyer only once per month, if accused of a crime (6th Amendment). Similarly, the 2nd Amendment protects the individual right to have a handgun (independent of service in the militia). Arbitrarily restricting purchases to one per month would seem to me to be a violation of the Second Amendment, especially since there is no rational connection between crime prevention and such a restriction, (although we will have to wait for the Supreme Court to address Second Amendment incorporation to know for sure).
My thanks to Anders for pointing out the proposed NJ “one gun per month” law.
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