What It's Like Buying a Gun in New Jersey

By Brandon Chesner

 Firearm ownership has always been a closely held right to millions of Americans, but lately its been under increasing attacks  Photo by LPETTET/iStock / Getty Images

Firearm ownership has always been a closely held right to millions of Americans, but lately its been under increasing attacks

Photo by LPETTET/iStock / Getty Images

In a state bluer than the deep sea, you wouldn’t expect to find many sympathetic to the 2nd Amendment or gun owners in general. Democrats have had a near monopoly on the legislature for as long as we can remember. Firearm ownership–the real American pastime–has unjustifiably been treated like the flu. Democrats accept that a large portion of the population own guns, but the sheer sight of a father teaching their children safe firearm usage sends shivers down their spines.

Ever since I was young, owning a gun had been on my list of things to do once I turned 18. A lot of my peers spent their 18th birthday partying while I was filling out paperwork for my Firearm Identification Card (FID).  A little exaggerated, but you get the point.

Where did this love of shooting originate? I don’t know, to be perfectly honest. My earliest memory of wanting a gun came after I was introduced to Nerf Guns. From there it grew to Airsoft and BB guns. When I was about 12 I shot my first .22 rifle at Boy Scout camp. From that moment, I fell in love with the sport. The sense of power, security and pride from putting 5 rounds inside a quarter at 50 feet, the requirement for the merit badge, thrilled me. Finally, a sport that doesn’t involve balls and where my performance was reliant solely on my own skills. I was on top of the world. Later, at the same camp, I learned to shoot the 12-gauge shotgun. Don’t let anybody tell you shotguns are just pointing and pulling the trigger. Hitting a small flying target, even with birdshot, takes a good amount of skill.

After years of waiting, I was 18. However, my options were limited to rifles or shotguns. For some odd reason handguns and handgun ammo was restricted to only those who were 21. And each time you bought a new handgun, you were forced to go through the same grueling process I’m about to describe. At 18, I was old enough to be tried as an adult, vote, fight and die in war, live on my own and all other legal parameters of adulthood, but I couldn’t fully exercise my 2nd Amendment rights. It didn’t matter, though. I knew I could only afford one gun at the moment and had already decided on an AR-15. The big scary rifle so many have an irrational fear over.

 I was testing out the M&P 15 prior to purchasing it. To get this far, I needed 2 background checks and needed to be fingerprinted.

I was testing out the M&P 15 prior to purchasing it. To get this far, I needed 2 background checks and needed to be fingerprinted.

The FID card required three unique background checks for approval. First, there was a standard criminal background check. Nothing wrong with this, I thought. The only slightly annoying part was having to give up every location I had lived at for the past 10 years. Why would this impact a background check? I still don't have an answer. Next was a mental health check. After giving my consent, they made sure I had never been a psychiatric patient, and if I had been, they would have made sure I no longer posed a threat to myself or others. That, again, is more than fair. Seeking mental health help shouldn’t automatically disqualify you from owning a gun. If you're “cured,” your rights should be fully restored as well. As a slap in the face to efficiency, I had to visit an independent facility for digital fingerprinting. The police department clearly has the resources to do this on their own, but they require you to visit a private company for it. I see the importance of fingerprinting: they’re checking to see if you're connected to an unsolved crime. However, if that’s the bar set, they risk stripping individuals of their constitutional rights without a trial. And if it’s only to check if you’ve been convicted, wouldn’t the standard background check suffice? Excessive bureaucracy is the biggest deterrent in the Democrats' tool box for blocking firearm ownership. It took 3 weeks to book an appointment. The background checks, as I’ll explain in a bit, shouldn’t have taken more than a couple of hours depending on backlog.

In addition to three unique background checks, I needed two personal references and one from my employers. It’s a lot of paperwork, and not many people would want to do it. It’s like asking a friend to help move. Sure, they’ll reluctantly agree, but they’ll be bitter the whole time. Asking my boss for one was awkward in of itself.

I live in one of the most conservative towns in New Jersey. In the last 40 years, we’ve elected maybe half a dozen Democrats to the state legislature. Crime is pretty low, so there’s not much for the police to do all day. Even then, it took over two months for my FID card to be approved. After asking around, I learned that two months was record speed. A friend of my dad was still waiting 8 months after applying for a handgun permit. He had to get a court order for them to speed it along. Every time I want to buy a handgun, I’ll have to go through the whole process again. I thought “assault weapons” were the real problem? Why put extra burdens on handguns while simultaneously trying to undermine the long gun industry?

I’m the first in my family to own a firearm. Twenty years ago, my dad wanted to buy a shotgun. After going through all that effort, his permit was denied for a non-issue. My mom hates guns, a personal preference she’s allowed to have. The police department, in our old town, sends an approval form to all adults living with you. There are actually places in New Jersey where people living with you can automatically veto your constitutional rights without any real reasoning beyond “I don’t like them”.

After ordering my M&P 15, I had to go through two more rounds of background checks before taking her home. One federal and one state level. Answer me this: if I’m going to get a background check when I buy my gun, why did I get one while applying for my FID card? The first round of checks isn’t even relevant. I’m not getting anything besides a card. It may be weeks or months between applying for the card and buying a gun. The first check is outdated and therefore obsolete.

There was a backlog, so I was forced to return the following day. This ended up happening both times I bought a gun. When my dad bought a handgun last month, it took 15 minutes. There is nothing wrong with that; be as thorough as you want, but only strip my rights away with a due process conviction. FFL dealers are allowed and expected to judge the person they’re selling the firearm to. If the customer is shady, no gun. Including the retailer evaluation, I had to get inspected six times!

Strangely enough, half the form I filled out was also meaningless. Why ask if I committed a felony on the background check wavier if you’re just going to check my background anyway? More meaningless paperwork meant to slow down my human right of self-preservation.

Unless you own a hundred acres, shooting your newly acquired firearm will take place in one of a few, heavily controlled ranges. People in the firearm industry realize it’s a potentially dangerous sport, even though shooting sports have far fewer injuries than conventional activities like football or soccer.  Just to keep the injuries low, every range has a multitude of safety protocols. I go to Tactical Training Center in Flemington regularly, so I’ll use their in-house policies as an example, but regardless of where you go, the general rules will apply. If it’s your first time at the range, you’ll need to fill out a liability waiver and watch a ten-minute safety video on range rules. This must be repeated every year. Firearm safety is built on common sense and respect. Respect the power of the weapon and use common sense to not direct that power anywhere not down range. Keep the gun pointed in a safe direction, don’t leave it loaded and unattended, finger off the trigger until ready to shoot, and listen to the range officers. People equate gun ownership to drivers licenses a lot. They want to make people go through a training course and take a test for it. That is ridiculously unnecessary. Unintentional injuries from guns result from people being stupid and not respecting their power. Car accidents occur from terrible drivers with your performance directly impacting others lives. Being a bad shooter means missing the target, not accidently shooting pedestrians on the road. It’s not that hard to not be an idiot.

 Both firearms are nearly identical in every way but looks. One is acceptable while another is demonized.

Both firearms are nearly identical in every way but looks. One is acceptable while another is demonized.

Shooting is the real American pastime. Hundreds of millions of Americans participate every year and 99.9999% do so without every causing bodily harm to another person. It brings people together, puts food on the table, and makes Americans happy. Why further restrict such an enjoyable sport? All these measures eventually stop being effective. Tagging on more checks won’t do anyone any good. Banning a class of firearms because they look scary isn’t protecting people, it’s starting the slow removal of our rights. “Assault rifles” make up less than 1% of gun deaths each year. They’re not high powered, more dangerous, or anything special for that matter, yet they’re the most highly regulated and first on the chopping block for gun bans. The round, not the looks, is where the power of the gun is derived. AR’s tend to use 5.56 rounds, but most hunters don’t even use that cartridge because of its lack of effectiveness. My Ruger 10/22 performs identically to my M&P 15 at 40 yards. One has a “retractable” stock (that’s illegal in NJ so it was pinned prior to shipment), a pistol grip, and cooler aesthetics. The other has a traditional wooden rifle stock (because I’m classy). .22’s may be small, but they’ll still take down a deer with ease. Substitute the round and the results are the same. You’d see a difference if you were carrying it in a 12-hour firefight out in Vietnam or Iraq. In the ways they’re used in tragic acts of evil, the two guns will give the same results. Banning one over looks is a clear first step to complete gun confiscation.

            Modern gun legislation has proven to be nothing more than red tape restrictions and delays on firearm ownership. Bayonet mounts are illegal in this state. That isn’t even relevant and another clear indicator that these laws were made by people who’ve never touched a gun, but are surrounded by armed guards.

            What’s it like to buy a gun in NJ? A real pain in the ass. Don’t let them fool you, its not for your safety. It’s a form of discouragement from gun ownership. With fewer people falling in love with this perfect pass time, it’ll be easier to remove this human right from the books.