Welcome to my first entry in my column, “On My Mind…What Do You Think?” where I’ll be discussing my take on some issues of current interest and then, if you’d like to share, your thoughts on it you are welcome (responses of course must not be defamatory and will be screened for inappropriate content).
So, not for the light at heart, I am kicking off with a heavy set of buzzwords and topic…
This is a set of buzzwords that is timely and emerging from a hot topic that began in Sussex County and is now being talked about nationwide.
First off, for those unfamiliar with the term, what is “justifiable need?”
In New Jersey it is specified that anyone not a law enforcement officer must have a “justifiable need” to apply for a handgun to carry in a concealed manner in that there is an “urgent necessity for self-protection, as evidenced by specific threats or previous attacks which demonstrate a special danger to the applicant’s life that cannot be avoided by means other than by issuance of a permit to carry a handgun.”
There is particular criteria that must be met for a civilian someone applying for a handgun permit with a request to carry according to the New Jersey State Police website. The applicant must first be of good character, secondly be familiar with safe handling of the weapon and thirdly, have a “justifiable need” aka prior threat of death to have such a permit. There are other accompanying formalities such as taking an approved course, familiarizing oneself with the laws, having a clean emotional bill of health and no criminal background, showing a proficiency for the weapon and not having any health issue that would prevent it from being handled properly and having a willingness to provide fingerprints for the check, among things.
Coincidentally the original plaintiff to a lawsuit now being heard by the Supreme Court and the most current plaintiff (who was actually one of the original of six who filed this in 2010) in a suit begun after the first plaintiff was denied a permit to carry, are two people that I know personally.
One of them is the local owner of a pet food store that I actually buy my pet foods from. A wonderful person and businessman, Jeff Muller was the mistaken victim of kidnap, snatched in front of his store in 2010 by a group of thugs who drove out from the Midwest looking for a man with the same name who they claimed owed a debt. After subduing Mr. Muller with a tazer, they drove him across the U.S. and by the grace of God since he was additionally beaten up by them and restrained with zipties, he was able to escape from their hands and his captors were arrested and extradited to the Garden State.
The second is John Drake, another upstanding person and businessman in our community, who I am blessed to know as a member of the Sussex County Chamber of Commerce. He heads up our Economic Development Partnership and is a respected business leader within the area, who also volunteers his time to organizations such as the 200 Club of Sussex County. He has held a familiarity with guns and hunting since his childhood. Among his numerous business ventures, Mr. Drake owns a large number of ATM’s that he services throughout Northern New Jersey. With his job tending to the ATM’s, he has faced and continues to face, menacing individuals who have attempted to harm him while performing his job.
What do these two gentlemen have in common? Both Jeff Muller and John Drake have applied for handgun carrying permits and were denied by the chain of command based on the perceived lack of “justifiable need.”
One had his life at stake and has since dealt with the threat of retaliation following the botched kidnapping attempt he survived, because of the need to testify against the perps who did this to him (later in the midst of this lawsuit, Jeff Muller was dismissed from it as well as another and was reportedly issued a permit to carry). The other has had threats to his safety and fears future threats in the line of duty and in spite of that, the court has denied his appeals to the original denial of his application. Right now, John Drake’s request is in the hands of the Supreme Court Justices via a conference. Four of nine must decide by Monday in favor of his request in order for it to be granted.
Let me divert slightly and bring up a case that happened in Sussex County in which perpetrators had their hands on guns and things went awry for two men at work. In 1997, two innocent pizza delivery men, Giorgio Gallara and Jeremy Giordano, were brutally slain by two crazed gunmen in Franklin Borough, Thomas Koskovich and Jayson Vreeland. Koskovich and Vreeland had reached out to several restaurants for a pizza delivery not seeking food but prey and Gallara and Giordano became their unsuspecting victims when the delivery was requested at an unoccupied residence.
Do we have to wait for a tragedy to happen, when it will become too late and someone with a true justifiable need such as the one Gallara and Giordano were faced with when they were ambushed, or the one John Drake is requesting goes unheard? Hasn’t criminal history like what has happened to these two young men and Jeff Muller taught us enough? I find it outrageous Jeff Muller was denied a permit, that John Drake has continued to be denied one and honestly, I believe all delivery people should have the opportunity to apply to be armed because of the potential of robberies and harm such as in the case of Gallara and Giordano…delivery people too such as UPS workers I think, should have the option to go through the screening process. People servicing ATM’s such as John Drake should as well. And for those who remember the pizza delivery case, the two murderers killed the pizza delivery men not for the point of robbing them, their motive was considered a “thrill kill” simply and sickly to experience killing them.
Since the suit John Drake is plaintiff in commenced in 2010 thanks to Jeff Muller, other plaintiffs have jumped on the bandwagon including other states and organizations including the National Rifle Association (NRA), in support of the case and now specifically, John Drake’s suit.
One of the most vocal states on board has been Wyoming, which has led the pack of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio,Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia in the fight.
In the brief submitted by the State of Wyoming, Wyoming challenged via their Office of the Attorney General on behalf of all of the participating states that one of the decisions in the lower courts of John Drake’s case (Drake v. Filko) “threatens to erode the protection provided by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
Per the Supremacy Clause, New Jersey must abide first by the law of the land aka the Constitution. So why is New Jersey tampering with our Constitutional Rights? And what the heck is our acting Attorney General’s problem that he filed a brief, unlike Wyoming’s AG on behalf of all the other states, against John Drake’s case?
If protecting the Second Amendment is good for 19 other Attorney Generals, why is it not good enough for New Jersey’s?
He claims that firearm restrictive laws have existed in New Jersey since the 1790’s and that carry permits are only allowed when the applicant has a threat against their life.
Forgive me but that is a bunch of bunk in so many ways. For one of them, let’s dust off our history books for a second, yes, remove them from our shelves and blow the dirt off of them. Let’s turn to a page important in New Jersey history from 1804, the decade following when these restrictive gun permit carry laws supposedly kicked in.
On this page in the book we will read about two politicians who engaged in an old-fashioned flame war, Alexander Hamilton our then Secretary of the Treasury and the nation’s sitting Vice-President Aaron Burr. Instead of attacking one another from behind a keyboard as is often done now, the conflict climaxed when Hamilton flamed about Burr in a defamatory manner in the papers when Burr was running for Governor of New York. Both of these gentlemen were duel-happy fellows and had been in previous skirmishes in their pasts. By this time dueling was outlawed in New York and New Jersey yet they decided like many, to head to Weehawken (apparently equipped with an ideal dueling ground) because the punishment for dueling was less severe in New Jersey than New York. See where I am headed with this?
In order to carry out this act, under clandestine plans, parties associated with each of these men scurried about in order to be able to claim deniability later for their knowledge of the duel. Although groups obviously and separately transported both Hamilton and Burr over to New Jersey, they kept their backs turned as the two dueled and the weapons, a pair of dueling pistols from England that were Hamilton’s brother-in-laws (hmmm…wonder if Hamilton had to apply for a use permit and concealed carry permit for those puppies, or if his brother-in-law was even permitted?) were used and transported as well in a piece of luggage (concealed in other words) so the rowers were able to claim in their accounts that they saw nothing as they transported the boys across the Hudson.
Unfortunately for Hamilton, his wound was fatal and Burr was indicted for murder in both New York and New Jersey, though there was never a trial and the indictment was quashed.
Returning to our present day from this early historical New Jersey event, it’s hard to see how the argument of carrying permit laws has even been in place then because of this incident and belief that New Jersey was more lax about its laws and the ultimate outcome of the Hamilton and Burr duel (the indictment being dropped altogether). Our Constitution’s Second Amendment with the right to bear arms was already in place for about 13 years at the point the duel took place, so again, the argument given that this concealed carry baloney has long been in place seems moot.
It was in actuality in 1905 that the laws began to be put into place, with the 1905 law mandating that only concealed weapons required a permit. Over the years, the law was amended and in 1966, the concealed weapons clause was removed and all weapons required a permit for civilians.
Before anyone flips out at me, let me preface that I am a parent and I believe that guns are bad when they are in the wrong hands, in case anyone reading jumps on the let’s attack the writer bandwagon (people are quick to delete, unfriend, un-fan, whatever these days, sadly, rather than accept a viewpoint or wait around to find out why someone stands in a particular place on a particular issue). I feel that those who have been properly versed in weaponry, have passed the proper physical and psychiatric tests, have submitted their fingerprints and the like should have the right under the U.S. Constitution to bear arms if it is for their own personal safety reasons such as in John Drake’s case.
I also feel, because of the many fruit loops out there who have barged into schools and onto campuses with open fire, there should be minimally one armed individual at each school (needs to depend on the school’s size) to avert further Columbine, Virginia Tech and Newtown incidents.
I have a different take on guns because of my upbringing and some things that have happened in my life. I come from a family with police officers. I have worked in a career in security (one at my college and one in college as well at our local mall where there were cases of carjackings and even a person threatened with a knife on days when I was working) with nothing more than a whistle on me as “protection”…by the grace of God, I survived the situations I was in unscathed and unharmed.
One of my classmates was sadly murdered and two separate ladies I know were victims of attempted murder. Could things have potentially changed for the one especially, who was carjacked and shoved off of the interstate in Florida by some drugged out guys, who beat her within centimeters of paralysis and her life? If she had a weapon to protect herself, could she have turned the tables on her attacker? I believe so…and not been through the heartache that she endured.
A friend of mine, who had never held a weapon in her life before she attended college in Tempe Arizona, was able because of more open weapons laws there to receive a permit to carry a weapon visibly and to avert danger one night when a man started harassing her. She simply slapped her hand on her holster to show him she was armed. After picking on her, he clammed up and left her alone.
How many crimes could have been averted here in New Jersey and people given the ability to feel more safe if people were permitted to carry weapons to protect themselves?
My scope on this topic has also been broadened having been a student in Switzerland for four months in 1990. In the midst of the Gulf War with Americans mainly involved in the heat of the conflict, I was amazed to show to the airport in Zurich for my return flight to JFK in New York, to find the check-in area was surrounded with sharpshooters all around and especially in the mezzanine area close to the ceiling (which had a catwalk on which they were pacing back and forth). I had been to the airport in Zurich several times prior to that and had never seen such upped security.
Switzerland…one of the world’s neutral countries was in full “ready” mode. And they always are. Men must enroll in the military at 20 and can hold a weapon at home which must be left in a box. Officers can carry pistols. The ammunition for the military is kept in a centralized area (private citizens with approval can keep their ammunition at home). The mountains are carved with caverns for military supply. Their laws are more liberal for carrying permits and the crime rate for homicide by gun is one of the lowest in the world at .70 per 100,000 people per 2010 figures. In 2011, a UN report showed per 100,000 people in the United States there were five deaths as a result of shootings, even with our tougher gun laws.
I suggest all who are reading this column view the article here from Time magazine about the gun laws in Switzerland to see how it works.
I can say on the return trip to the U.S. after viewing the many sharpshooters in an airport in a neutral country, I arrived on my home soil, a country engaged in war, and found no such security measures in place and not even one soldier or police officer stationed there.
The United States has kept itself vulnerable for many years, in spite of our Second Amendment rights. This is why there are so many bad guys who have harmed others with weapons they have acquired illegally and because “good guys” like John Drake, who is an upstanding citizen versed in the use of guns, and simply requesting a permit to carry one through the proper channels to protect himself when he is performing his livelihood, is being quashed while attempting to obtain a gun carry permit.
America is forward on many things but totally backwards on this issue and New Jersey’s response to this suit with a request for a dismissal is sadly behind the curve.
On my mind: rooting for John Drake in his case and a positive outcome, when the Supreme Court justices make their decisions on Monday. If ordinary citizens could vouch on a petition for others who are applying for a weapons permit, I would certainly sign for John and I know, based on his reputation in the community, someone like him could get not just hundreds but thousands of signatures to vouch for his character and to justify for the need to keep himself safe while he is out there working.
What do you think?
Stay on the scene with NJInsideScene.com and click here to follow us on Facebook!