New Jersey Assaults the First and Second Amendments

So, New Jersey is where the 2nd American Revolution will begin...

Last week I wrote about a spate of bills in the New York State Senate, sponsored by a liberal Senator from Brooklyn, intending to squash gun ownership across the entire Empire State. On the other side of the Hudson, New Jersey politicians are upping the ante, with a measure signed into law last month that criminalizes speech. Not just any speech, mind you; but speech relating to the Second Amendment.

You can still rant in New Jersey about Donald Trump, or call conservatives any manner of vile names.  But, if you try to communicate online about certain firearms matters, Bingo!  The “Garden State” authorities will come after you for daring to provide instructions for readers to learn how to print plans for a 3-D firearm.

This is not about criminalizing the possession of such an instrument (New Jersey competes with its older brother in making it extremely difficult to legally own a firearm at all).  The new law makes it illegal to even communicate how to print one.

Insidiously, New Jersey political leaders, whose fear of the right to keep and bear arms knows no bounds, have constructed this latest Second Amendment speech infringement in such a way that it effectively makes it unlawful for anyone to place such plans online anywhere, not just in their state.

What prompted this draconian measure?  One small company — Defense Distributed, a non-profit defense firm based not in Newark or Jersey City, but in Austin, Texas.  Defense Distributed had the audacity to provide instructions for individuals who want to try their hand at printing a 3-D firearm to do so.

This new tactic, if permitted to stand, lays the groundwork for a state to criminalize everything from engineering books detailing the process of the 3-D printing of firearms for educational purposes, to hosting digital copies of 3-D printed gun designs regardless of where they are in the world, if someone from New Jersey has any way whatsoever to access them.  It will then be a small step to banning the transmission of plans for any firearms-related actions.

And our federal Courts, which are supposed to be the constitutional failsafe by which citizens are protected against unconstitutional acts by government, have failed to lift a finger to help. It seems that while federal district courts are all too happy to jump in and issue nationwide injunctions to stop President Trump from implementing federal policies with which they disagree politically, when it comes to stopping favored but nonetheless unconstitutional acts by state governments, federal jurists are content to sit idly on the sidelines.
Ironically, it was this year that the state of New Jersey won a Supreme Court case against a law passed by the U.S. Congress banning sports betting online. New Jersey, then, was an aggressive champion for free Internet speech.  But now, mere months later, it has changed its tune.
The state’s former free-speech advocates have morphed into Nanny State Internet censors.  Their justification for such blatant hypocrisy?  The tried and true, go-to justification for virtually all Second Amendment-limiting state action: “public safety”; which trumps not only “individual safety” but every other constitutionally-guaranteed right in today’s world.
Bob Barr is a former Congressman who represented the citizens of Georgia’s 7th Congressional District in the US House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. Bob heads Liberty Guard, a non-profit and non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting individual liberty.