Debate over gun control has been raging nationwide with recent mass shootings making headlines. Many are calling for stricter laws regulating gun purchasing and possession, but New Jersey Second Amendment Society President Frank Jack Fiamingo told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that more regulation isn’t the answer.
Fiamingo pointed out that New Jersey gun owners don’t have the right to carry their weapons. “In New Jersey you don’t have the right to possess. Possess would mean I could have it and take it with me from place to place,” he explained. “In New Jersey, in order to transport a firearm it has to be unloaded and locked in the trunk of your car where you don’t have access to it.”
Because the law is vague, Fiamingo said it causes issues. “They say you can go to and from the range with your firearm unloaded and locked in the trunk of your car with only reasonable deviations. What does that mean? Can you stop for a bite to eat? Can you stop to pick up your clothes from the cleaners on the way home? So what happens is, because of the confusion in the law, you wind up with a situation that we had in 2010 where a boy named Brian Aitken wound up in prison for seven years,” he said referring to the man whose sentence was eventually commuted by Gov. Chris Christie in 2010. Aitken’s mother was worried about him and called police to do a welfare check. Police found three unloaded hand guns and ammunition in his trunk and arrested him on weapons charges.
Despite controversy, gun purchases are on the rise, with gun permits increasing by two-thirds. Fiamingo attributes that to an increase among women who want to protect themselves.
Although applications are up, Fiamingo said the wait time is long. “People have been calling me saying I’ve been waiting six months, 12 months, 18 months for a permit. That has to stop. That should be illegal,” he said.
Gov. Chris Christie recently vetoed some of the new gun control measures, including one that would have banned 50 caliber sniper rifles, but allowed others to stand. “It says to me that he’s sort of on the fence, that he doesn’t really know which way he wants to go with gun rights,” Fiamingo said.
Fiamingo said his members are angry with Senate President Steve Sweeney for going back on a promise to curb gun legislation. “Sweeney … promised us that he would not allow any further gun control to pass his desk. This was after the one gun a month bill passed. And then he turned around and stabbed us in the back quite frankly. It’s our mission now to make sure that we replace him in the Senate,” Fiamingo said. “Not only did 20 bills pass his desk, but he wrote one of the worst ones — the Sweeney ominous bill. That’s what we call it. That was the bill that would encode our firearms identification status on our ID card, which would require training, not to use a firearm at the range, but to just possess one at your home for your own self defense.”
Fiamingo said he believes Sweeney changed his approach under pressure from others. “I think there was a lot of pressure on him from the Senate Majority Leader, Loretta Weinberg and her cronies. A lot of pressure. But, be that as it may, he had an obligation to us. He invited us into the process to tell him what we thought about all of this legislation. We did. And then he told us to take a hike,” Fiamingo said.
While Fiamingo said he doesn’t necessarily disagree with the legislation requiring the reporting of lost, stolen or discarded weapons to a federal database, he isn’t sure the amount of time allowed is adequate. He used an example of a local gang member stealing a firearm. “I’m afraid to report it because I know what’s gonna happen to myself and my family if I report it,” he said.
Advocates of more gun control legislation point to the safety of citizens as a reason for more laws. But Fiamingo said society needs to look at who’s committing mass shootings instead of just creating more regulations.
He pointed out that New Jersey already has a mental health screening requirement for gun ownership but said it shouldn’t be a national law. “I think that each state is capable of making their own decision with that,” he said.
In the case of the Washington Navy Yard shooting, the alleged perpetrator crossed into Virginia to purchase the weapons used. But Fiamingo pointed out, “He also passed government security which, they should’ve caught it. So you have to ask yourself the question, can you prevent every one of these incidents from happening? And you can’t.”
Fiamingo believes having more armed individuals would benefit society as a whole. “I think for instance … the Newtown, Conn. situation. If there had been people carrying firearms there, that man may not have been able to slaughter as many people as he did,” he said.
He disagrees with the governor’s assertion that schools should not have armed guards. “When you have a gun-free zone, you basically have told criminals that they’re not gonna meet with any resistance. When our children are at stake, they need to be met with resistance,” Fiamingo said.
Critics of that argument may point to the recent incident in Times Square where police opened fire on a suspect but ended up hitting innocent bystanders instead. “I don’t think you can prevent all those kinds of incidents from happening. I think they will happen. Just because of the fact that people are people you know. They’re gonna make mistakes. And these were police. These were trained officers,” Fiamingo said. “The average individual who carries a firearm normally gets an awful lot of training. You would be surprised. Most of the guys that I know have more training than the typical police officer who qualifies twice a year.”
When asked how he can advocate for armed people in schools given the fact that innocent children might be hit by the ones meant to protect them, Fiamingo said, “My answer’s train them better, then they’re extremely qualified. That’s the responsibility that we’re giving them when we say we want you to protect our children.”