HATE TO SAY I TOLD YOU SO
When S-3214 /A -4769 were first introduced I took the time to review and make notes on all 39 pages of text. While most of the garbage put forth by the liberal politicians had to do with where and when you could carry a hand gun one section that was slipped in was of great concern to me. A number of my colleagues indicated that it was an overreaction on my part and this section, if passed, would have minimal if any effect on hunting.
The paragraph in question is found on page 4, section h. of the bill and is as follows:
“The historical record also supports restrictions of firearms possession on private property when the owner has not given their consent. Many states require a property owner’s permission before another may enter private dwellings and private lands with a firearm or other weapons. Requiring consent from the property owner before carrying weapons onto private property is also in the line with both the reasonable expectations and property rights of New Jersey property owners.”
It is obvious that the legislators who drafted and supported this law had no knowledge of the current laws that govern private property owners’ rights in New Jersey. If this section had been allowed to stand as law, you would no longer be able to hunt on private unposted lands in New Jersey without first receiving permission from the owner. This would have made hundreds of thousands of acres of land off limits to hunting. When I attempted to have the bold italicized section removed before the bill was voted on my cries fell on deaf ears. Not a single member of the majority party even had the courtesy to return my calls and discuss the sportsmen’s position on this section.
Enter a judge who can finally read and understand the law. On January 9, 2023 United States District Judge Bumb issued a temporary order stopping the law from taking effect. The Judge writes in the decision, “in fact, the States own historical evidence supports a finding that there is a presumption under the Second Amendment that an individual can enter private property with a firearm unless the property owner says otherwise. For instance, in the hunting context, criminal liability for a trespass on the land of another for the purpose of hunting wild animals has typically required the landowner to post a notice or personally forbid others from trespassing. (Citing N.J.S.A. 23:7-1, which provides for a fine for entering the land to hunt in disregard of conspicuous notice or personal knowledge forbidding trespass)”
If you would like to review the part of the decision that most affects hunting and trapping it can be found between pages 36 and 45 of the 60-page opinion.
This opinion, while important, is only temporary and the fight over firearms rights in New Jersey is just starting and we are many court battles short of victory or at least stalemate. There is an alternative to the courts and it’s called the ballot box.
This is as close as the liberal anti-hunting legislators have come in recent years to reaching their goal, to ban or at least make it extremely difficult to hunt and trap in New Jersey. With elections coming up shortly it’s time to show them that we still exist and can be a force at election time. Currently with the loss of Senator Sweeney and Assemblyman Burzichelli we have no voice that we can rely upon to defend our position in the majority caucus. We must be able to maintain our support with the minority party but reestablish a reliable ally with the Democrats. Until we are able to do that, we the sportsmen of New Jersey will be continually at risk of losing our rights to hunt and trap. Sportsmen sometimes find it difficult to follow the advice of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance when it comes to which candidates to support, even when you take into account all of the positive legislation that we have managed to pass for the sportsmen and more importantly the numerous bills that we were able to stop that never saw the light of day that would have adversely affected us. Just harken back to January of this year and the seven gun bills that cleared both houses and were signed into law by the Governor. It took less than two weeks after Senator Sweeney was no longer in office and Senator Scutari assumed the position as Senate President. These bills sat in the Senate for three years while you know who was Senate President and they were never brought up for a vote. These are the facts, like them or not. We have to maintain a good relationship with both sides of the isle if we want to survive. There are several legislative districts where the sportsmen can make a difference if we want to get off our asses, stop complaining and get to work. If not, we can sit on the sideline and wave good bye to our rights to hunt and trap in New Jersey.
The NJOA will be meeting in the near future to come up with a battle plan for the upcoming elections. We will post our position on our web page when finalized. So, stay tuned for more information and remember we need your support and your involvement to survive.
Ed Markowski, President
New Jersey Outdoor Alliance