If you buy a lawful product that is later banned, should you go to jail for 10 years, even though you didn't know it was banned, and the government that banned it now criminalizes any method to dispose of it?
In the world of gun ban extremist Bryan Miller of CeaseFire NJ, the answer to this question is yes.
Miller sees no distinction between violent criminals with guns (who should go to jail) and otherwise law-abiding citizens who were turned into "criminals" by the State with the stroke of a pen, when New Jersey banned an entire class of commonly owned semi-automatic firearms in the 1990s with no grandfather provision, no attempt to notify licensed gun owners, and a short time window within which to legally dispose of, disable, or register the banned guns.
At a March 6 legislative hearing on S1304, which would increase the penalty for possession of such firearms to a potential 10-year prison term, I argued that the higher penalty should apply to violent criminals with guns, but that otherwise law abiding citizens who had purchased the guns when it was legal to do so, who may not know they are banned due to the law's judicially acknowledged vagueness, who are not involved in criminal activity, and who presently have no legal means to comply with the law, should not be facing 10 years in prison.
In my testimony, I quoted a Court's judicial opinion finding that the gun ban's vague and confusing language made it impossible to know with certainty whether some firearms are covered by the ban. I cited another case in which an otherwise law-abiding citizen was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to a prison term under the current penalty merely for possessing a common .22 caliber target gun he had legally purchased prior to the ban.
A number of legislators who heard my testimony expressed surprise and great concern that the penalty increase under consideration - which was intended to target gang members and violent criminals - would have the unintended consequence of victimizing honest citizens in this way, and they pledged to address the issue, as other states have done.
But Miller has taken the unreasonable and unsupportable position that honest citizens who have been turned into "criminals" solely by legislative fiat, with no way to know for sure what is banned and no way to comply, should indeed be thrown in jail for 10 years along with gang members and violent criminals. To Miller, such people are evil law breakers who deserve to rot in jail along with murderers, rapists, and thieves.
Apparently blinded by hatred and intolerance of anyone who owns firearms, and his recent stinging defeat in Pennsylvania, Miller cannot even perceive that his latest posture raises serious questions about his own credibility.
Not only that, but Miller's latest rant on NJ Voices shows his utter lack of capacity for honest debate. Rather than conceding the common sense point that honest gun owners should not be treated like criminals, he stoops to grossly misrepresenting my testimony, and then attacking the misrepresentation, as if anyone will actually believe that I am advocating a "get out of jail free card" for "anyone who has purposely broken NJ's" laws. Miller seems incapable of truthfulness even in accurately conveying an opponent's point of view.
For those interested in what was actually said at the March 6 hearing, a copy of my testimony is available here. Also, the official audio recording of the hearing is available here (click on the word "listen" under March 6; the discussion begins approximately 1 hour and 50 minutes into the stream.).
Miller has shown himself to be the worst kind of zealot: one who relies on deception and misdirection, and who is incapable of reasonableness even in the face of the unsupportable. In Miller's world, there is no such thing as a law-abiding gun owner. His extremist goal is the eradication of all private firearms ownership, even if it means throwing honest gun owners in jail for 10 years