Cash Only, Please
Just when you thought cash was becoming a thing of the past, credit card companies decided to implement a de-facto gun registry. In September of last year, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) announced that it would create a merchant category code specific to firearms and ammunition retailers.
What does this mean? Well, when you go to buy yourself a nice, new, shiny firearm with your Visa debit card, you and that firearm will be intentionally plopped into a category that labels you the dreaded “firearms owner.” Queue the scary music. The three major credit card companies (Visa, Mastercard and American Express) will implement the new merchant code as soon as it is available.
For years, gun-control advocates and lawmakers have tried — to no avail — to implement a federal firearms registry. Thankfully, the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 protects gun owners from being placed into a centralized registry. Instead, lawmakers, including Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), have used their platforms to bully private companies into doing their bidding for them. Sen. Warren stated that “mass shooters have repeatedly financed deadly massacres using credit cards, and bank CEOs need to step up to save lives.” Gun-control advocates say that this is a “critical first step” to recognizing dangerous firearms trends, such as “domestic extremists building up an arsenal.” Or perhaps it’s just Grandpa Earl collecting firearms and shooting them in his spare time. But who gets to determine that?
Twenty-four Republican attorneys general have attempted to intercede by writing a letter requesting the credit card companies not go forward with this new code. In the letter, Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti and Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen stated that “categorizing the constitutionally protected right to purchase firearms unfairly singles out law-abiding merchants and consumers alike.” Senate Republicans also sent a similar letter.
While this is likely to deter potential criminals only from using their bank cards instead of cash at local gun shops, law-abiding citizens will also have to trek it to an ATM if they would like to stay out of the government’s crosshairs (pun intended). But there may be a silver lining in the bleakest of government overreach: Some firearms retailers do not implement taxes on firearms when cash is used.
Look at that! The government can sometimes, though very much unintentionally, save you some money.
Flip-Flopping in New York
New York could have its own reality show based on the dramatic flip-flops of gun laws between gun-control politicians and the federal judicial system. And as if New York gun laws weren’t confusing enough, the back and forth between these politicians and the lawsuits brought about by pro-gun advocates could definitely make your head spin.
In July of 2022, New York legislators passed restrictive gun laws in the aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling of NYSRPA v. Bruen. This legislation includes many “off-limit” places an individual with a concealed carry permit can carry a firearm. This encompasses highly populated and traveled places, such as Times Square, and public transportation (subways, trains, busses, ferries, etc.). This legislation also requires business owners to place visible signs if they allow permit holders to carry in their establishments. The most controversial aspect of this new legislation is that it requires permit seekers to turn over all social media accounts and include the names of all friends and relatives that live within their households.
Needless to say, many new lawsuits ensued. In early October of 2022, a federal judge issued a temporary injunction on a portion of New York’s new laws to include the above-mentioned aspects of the legislation. Judge Suddaby, a United States District judge for New York’s northern district, stated that it “reduced a first-class constitutional right to bear arms in public for self-defense.” This presented a major win for gun-rights advocates, right? Well, don’t start the celebration just yet.
A couple of days later, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed both an appeal to this decision and a restraining order to keep the laws in place while the appeals process plays out. Unfortunately, a separate federal judge granted the attorney general this request. If you are still following along, on Oct. 20, 2022, an entirely different federal judge struck down an aspect of the law that banned firearms in places of worship, citing unconstitutionality.
Are you confused yet? If so, you are not alone. Many of the state’s leaders are as well. Local authorities will now be tasked with conducting live interviews of applicants but are unsure of who will be doing this. This places a burden on local officials, who may not have the manpower to conduct these interviews for the influx of new applicants since the Supreme Court ruling. But as of now, the new laws (apart from carrying in places of worship) will remain in place while the appeals process plays out in the court system.
Gun-control politicians are in the habit of classifying inanimate objects, including the very popular AR-15, into the proverbial “assault” category of firearms. This classification usually includes firearms that can accept detachable magazines holding more than 10 rounds. After realizing that the current Assault Weapons Ban bill is doomed to fail the 60-vote threshold in the evenly divided Senate chamber, Congressman Chris Jacobs (D-New York) introduced HR 8882, or the Federal Assault Weapons Licensing Act, in September 2022 in the House of Representatives.
This bill will create a new licensing system for any American wanting to purchase many semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines. The licensing process, which mirrors the concealed carry permit process, would include:
- A mandatory safety course
- Passage of an FBI background check
- Submission of fingerprints
- Proof of identity
- $130 fee to the Department of Justice
- Renewal of the permit every five years
The bill does include some exemptions, such as individuals already in possession of these firearms, law enforcement officers and active-duty military. But do not fret, my friend. If you are looking to shoot these popular rifles at the range or hunt deer without a license, the government will allow you if you are properly supervised by an already licensed individual.
Pistol Brace Yo-Self
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has handed down some new gun-control rules and definitions in 2022. The newest rule, pertaining to the pistol brace, went into effect in December. To understand how your once-legal pistol brace has now made you a criminal, let us jump into the way-back machine to 2021 and see how the ATF came up with this new classification.
Short-barreled rifles, or SBRs, are illegal unless you have an NFA (National Firearms Act) tax stamp. So, the ATF created a “point system” that will determine if your firearm, with a pistol brace, is now an SBR. Pistol braces were originally intended to help disabled individuals with accuracy while shooting a pistol. Now, they are likely illegal to own because the point system designed by the ATF favors making them short-barreled rifles instead. If you are currently reading the U.S. Constitution in search of barrel-length legality, I can save you some time: It is not in there.
But good news! If you have a firearm fitted with a pistol brace, the ATF has graciously allowed you an “amnesty period” to apply for and register your gun. During the “amnesty period,” you will be required to “give the ATF your name, Social Security number, address, phone number, email, payment information and fingerprints as well as the make, model and serial number of your firearm — and provide photographic evidence of your compliance.” Don’t forget, you will also need to pay the $200 tax stamp to become a legal, law-abiding gun owner again.
New Jersey’s Race to No. 1
Gun-law-wise, New Jersey is neck-and-neck with California and New York in the race for the most restrictive. Just recently, New Jersey politicians cut to the inside on turn four, nosing ahead of California but remaining just behind New York by inches. In October 2022, legislators debated a new series of restrictive gun-control measures for the first time since the Supreme Court ruling in the NYSRPA v. Bruen case.
SB 3214 was introduced by Sens. Nicholas Scutari and Linda Greenstein, both Democrats (though the bill is considered bipartisan). This bill would expand background checks, add requirements to obtain a concealed carry permit and make many places off-limits to carrying a firearm, even with a permit. State Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19) said that “by ensuring that individuals can only obtain a concealed carry permit after extensive review and appropriate training, we are standing up for victims of gun violence and helping to prevent future tragedies while abiding by the Court’s decision.”
Currently in New Jersey, a permit seeker must provide at least three character references the applicant has known for at least three years. This bill would expand the three-character-reference rule to five. If this bill passes, the police chief or superintendent would be required to conduct an interview with the applicant to determine if the applicant is not “likely to engage in conduct that would result in harm to the applicant or others.” This bill would also require gun owners to obtain liability insurance and would enhance training requirements. Furthermore, the law would expand the scope of places permit holders are not allowed to carry, such as:
- Polling places
- Within 100 feet of a place where a public gathering, demonstration or event is held for which a government permit is required
- A park, beach, recreation facility, or area or playground owned or controlled by a state, county or local government
- Youth sporting events
- Homeless shelters
- A bar or restaurant where alcohol is served, and any other site or facility where alcohol is sold for consumption on the premises
- Theaters, stadiums, museums, arenas and racetracks
Violation of any of these restricted areas would be a crime of the third degree, punishable by three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
The bill has received criticism and pushback from some legislators. State Sen. Mike Testa (R-1) stated the obvious when he said, “Law-abiding gun owners will follow the law and leave their guns in their cars, while the criminals they seek to protect themselves from will continue to carry guns illegally into all of the prohibited places.”