New Jersey recently made one million of its citizens criminals by banning common firearm ammunition magazines without any grandfathering provision, but plaintiffs challenging the statute on Second Amendment grounds also argue that it violates equal protection because it exempts retired law enforcement but not retired military – a feature noticed just as America prepares to celebrate the Fourth of July.
The new gun ban makes it illegal for the part of the firearm that contains the ammunition rounds, which is called a magazine, to contain more than ten rounds. Many common firearms are designed to carry more than ten, but possessing such devices is now a crime in the Garden State.
When most states pass such laws, they contain grandfathering provisions that ban future sales. New Jersey’s law instantly made all such owners criminals while giving them a short window to turn in their gun accessories before prosecutions could begin.
The flagship gun-rights organization in that state is the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs (ANJRPC), which is the state affiliate of the National Rifle Association (NRA). ANJRPC’s executive director, Scott Bach, also serves on the NRA’s board of directors.
ANJRPC vigorously opposed this law, challenging it for violating the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, taking property without just compensation in violation of the Fifth Amendment Taking Clause, and denying people in New Jersey the equal protection of the laws in violation of the Fourth Amendment Equal Protection Clause.
Lawyers representing ANJRPC are from Cooper & Kirk, a highly respected appellate and Supreme Court law firm led by Chuck Cooper, the former head of the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, with the full backing and support of the NRA.
Their filings this week focused on one provision in the law that could be seen as outrageous by voters: while retired police officers are exempt from the law, retired military personnel are not, and they become criminals if they do not turn in their arms.
“New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and legislators silenced objections from law enforcement by exempting retired police from the ban,” said an ANJRPC press release on Monday. “But they made a ‘mistake’ in their pandering strategy that could prove fatal to the new law – they failed to also exempt military veterans from the 10-round limit.”
“Their pandering blunder reveals a serious violation of equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: an arbitrary privilege afforded to one group cannot be denied to others who are similarly situated,” the statement continued. “Retired police and military veterans both have civilian status – the same status as every one of New Jersey’s one million gun owners. Exempting retired police over veterans, and also over the entire civilian population itself, violates equal protection.”
“New Jersey Lawmakers thought they were pre-empting a groundswell of law enforcement opposition to the magazine ban by exempting retired police,” said Bach in his organization’s statement. “Instead, they created a vulnerability that threatens the very existence of their precious new law, and ANJRPC is making the most of that vulnerability.”
ANJRPC’s lawyers have asked the federal court for a preliminary injunction to block the new statute while this lawsuit goes through the legal process.
“Military veterans, like the rest of the civilian population in New Jersey, have now been relegated to second-class status and placed at a significant disadvantage when it comes to defending their lives against criminals and gangs – who ironically will ignore the ban and be armed to the teeth,” said Bach.
The case is Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs v. Grewal, No. 3:18-cv-10507, in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey
Ken Klukowski is senior legal editor for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.