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News & Editorials

A Step in Right Direction

by John J. Marciano

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." – Confucius.

Last Tuesday, conservative Republicans and Libertarians handed moderate Bob Franks a stunning defeat by voting in Bret Schundler to the Republican nomination. Bret Schundler is an endangered species in New Jersey. He is that rare breed of politician known as a conservative Republican. Bret Schundler even supports the right to self-defense. However, some pro-self-defense groups oppose Mr. Schundler. They say that because Mr. Schundler is not a Second-Amendment absolutist, gun-owners in New Jersey should not vote for him.  I’m a Second-Amendment absolutist. I believe people should be able to own and carry weapons without government permission or meddling. But not everyone, especially in New Jersey, shares my view.

Let’s face it; New Jersey is not Wyoming. There are not legions of gun-owning ranchers, hunters, and sportsmen running around casting their vote for the pro-gun Republican or the pro-gun Democrat. New Jersey doesn’t have the wide-open spaces that are so convenient to sport shooting. Gun owners are definitely in the minority in a suburban state like New Jersey. Many people in that state do not know the first thing about guns. That’s why they would recoil from any Second Amendment Absolutist positions. In a state where soccer moms (and dads) look to the government for protection, the freedom for citizens to own and carry any weapon they choose can seem a long way off. When you are in the minority, as gun owners in New Jersey are, you have to take certain incremental steps not to alienate an ignorant public.

Bret Schundler is only acknowledging this fact. A pro-gun candidate in New Jersey who takes Second Amendment Absolutist positions will not win! I ask you, what average citizen who knows nothing about guns would say “Hell yeah, I want an assault weapon!” Even the name, “Assault Weapon” sounds bad. Gun enthusiasts and pro-self defense advocates may know how silly it is to ban weapons that just look ugly, but “assault weapons” scare the average New Jersey resident. There is a way to change these misconceptions.

People who are opposed to the idea of the human right of self-defense like to propose and enact their agendas in incremental steps. Groups like Handgun Control, oops I mean the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, would shock even the most lulled citizen by coming out with “We are pressuring Congress to ban all guns. Someone give me Barbara Boxer’s phone number.” Proposing small steps to gun confiscation inoculates the public against the shock of a full, outright ban. First let’s have trigger locks. What, no crime free utopia? How ‘bout one-gun-a-month? Not working? Let’s try licensing and registration

Second Amendment advocates can use this approach too. If elected governor, Schundler might work incrementally; first by supporting a concealed carry law, something that has broader support in New Jersey. As crime goes down, (See More Guns, Less Crime by John Lott Jr.) he might start to advocate repealing of the “assault-weapons” ban. A pro-gun candidate like Bret Schundler is smart not to advertise his true feelings on such position. Saying “I support the laws” might not be the most honest thing to say if he is indeed against the “Assault Weapon” ban or the onerous permit system, but it might be good politics.

The second amendment supporters who are against Bret Schundler because he is not a second amendment absolutist are misplacing their opposition. Self-defense advocates in New Jersey should not look a gift horse in the mouth. Bret Schundler may not sound like a perfect Constitution advocate, but him sitting in the governor’s office is a much better proposition than a write-in “protest”. Gun owners can take a page from the Handgun Control playbook and work their way back toward freedom incrementally. Any step toward more freedom is a step in right direction.


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Arms discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property . . . Horrid mischief would ensue were the law-abiding deprived of the use of them. — Thomas Paine, Thoughts on Defensive War (1775).

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