A Plea For Attention

The Brady Campaign and the other older gun prohibitionist groups such as the Violence Policy Center and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (sic) have been marginalized by Michael Bloomberg and his money. His Illegal Mayors, his merger with Shannon Watts and the Demanding Mommies, and his willingness to parachute legions of lobbyists into purple states like Colorado to get new laws imposed have created a far more dangerous foe to gun rights than the Brady Campaign.

It is within this context that we should examine the lawsuit brought yesterday in New Jersey by the Brady Campaign to force certification of the so-called “smart gun”. While it may be seen as a plea for attention, such pleas by a marginalized foe can be dangerous.

The lawsuit filed yesterday seeks to force NJ Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman to comply with the reporting requirements of the Personalized Handgun Law. By doing so, it could trigger the 3-year clock after which only “personalized handguns” may be sold in New Jersey. Unlike the California microstamping law which allows existing handguns on the California Handgun Roster to still be sold, there is no grandfathering in of existing handguns.

New Jersey is an anomaly in that its Attorney General is appointed and not elected. The Attorney General is appointed by the Governor and then confirmed by the NJ State Senate much like the US Attorney General. Mr. Hoffman, the Acting Attorney General, was appointed to the position when his predecessor was appointed to fill the US Senate seat held by the late Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). Politically, he is registered as an Independent. His law career has been primarily in the public sector with the bulk of it being as a trial attorney in the US Department of Justice Civil Division and as an Assistant US Attorney for the District of New Jersey. Hoffman, while he was politically astute enough to get appointed Acting AG, seems to be more a bureaucrat than a politician.

The Brady Campaign sent Hoffman letters in February and in April noting that the Attorney General’s Office had failed to do its semi-annual reports on the availability of personalized handguns since 2003. The February letter mentioned the Armatrix iP1 pistol and asked that he file the requisite report with the Governor and Legislature affirming that it was available for sale. The April letter was a reminder and hinted of further action.

I have to believe that the Brady Campaign had the complaint written and ready to go when the time was right. It is no coincidence that the lawsuit was filed in Mercer County Superior Court the day after Ernst Mauch, designer of the Armatrix iP1 pistol, had an op-ed published in the Washington Post. Whether or not Herr Mauch colluded with the Brady Campaign on the timing is up for speculation but it certainly looks suspicious. The timeline of information requests presented in the complaint makes clear that the Brady Campaign and its affiliate NJ Million Moms (sic) had been planning this since 2013.

The complaint itself is rather straight forward with the exception of the recitation of accidental shootings by children with handguns. It basically says the Attorney General of NJ was supposed to be putting out semi-annual reports on personalized handguns (NJS 2C:58-2.3(c), the one report from 2003 could not be found, and that Deputy AG Bruce Solomon had affirmed that no report had been issued from 2004-2012. The complaint goes on to say that a dealer in California had offered a personalized handgun for sale and that a Maryland dealer had received one from the manufacturer. This is important to the case because of how the statute determines personalized handguns are available (NJS 2C:58-2.3(b)).

For the purposes of this section, personalized handguns shall be deemed to be available for retail sales purposes if at least one manufacturer has delivered at least one production model of a personalized handgun to a registered or licensed wholesale or retail dealer in New Jersey or any other state. As used in this subsection, the term “production model” shall mean a handgun which is the product of a regular manufacturing process that produces multiple copies of the same handgun model, and shall not include a prototype or other unique specimen that is offered for sale.

The fact that the NJ Attorney General’s Office has screwed up by not issuing the semi-annual reports is a given. The question remains as to whether the so-called smart guns available in California or delivered to dealer in Maryland were actual production models or prototypes. The Attorney General’s Office, if it was smart and/or pressured to do so by Gov. Chris Christie, could issue the required report immediately, affirm that no “production models” were available for sale, that only specimens or prototypes had been delivered, and ask for the case to be dismissed as moot. Whether they are smart enough or politically agile enough to pull that off remains to be seen.

As I noted earlier, even a marginalized foe can be dangerous. This lawsuit shows that Brady Campaign, while losing in the court of public opinion, still is astute enough to have been planning this assault on gun rights for well over a year. It calls for an energetic response from our side.

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