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NJ to consider ‘gulag for gun owners’ pretrial jail bill for nonviolent gun offenders

Concealed gun carry. (Gus Chan/The Plain Dealer/TNS)
March 11, 2022

The New Jersey Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee is set to consider new legislation that would allow those arrested on gun charges to be held without bail until their trial. The bill lacks any distinction between violent and non-violent offenders, prompting Second Amendment advocacy groups to raise the alarm.

Bill A2462, dubbed the “gulag for gun owners bill” by pro-gun groups, states that “a prosecutor may file a motion with the court at any time … seeking the pretrial detention” of “defendants who commit certain firearm offenses.”

“We want to make sure that those who are arrested with illegal weapons are detained so they’re not back on the streets, either doing the shooting or becoming the next shooting victim,” Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh said while endorsing the bill last month, according to IndyStar. “We’re looking to reform bail reform. We’re not looking to end it. We’re looking to mend it.”

“If you get caught with a gun, that’s it, you’re going to get detained,” Sayegh said, noting the bill would apply to first offenders. “I don’t care. You’re going to have evil intentions.”

East Orange Mayor Ted R. Green echoed Sayegh’s comments, arguing that current bail laws create a revolving door of gun crime.

“Folks can get arrested on a Monday with a gun, and on Friday they’re back out and we’re arresting them again,” said Green.

The director of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice’s criminal justice reform program, Yannick Wood, said the bill would be a step backward for bail reform, noting that judges are currently able to use their discretion to hold gun crime suspects.  

“By creating a carve-out for firearms offenses, it’s bringing us back into that bail system we used to have that we were trying to get out of,” Wood said. “One-size-fits-all measures do not work in criminal justice.”

The Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs (ANJRPC) called the proposed bill “well-intentioned but badly botched” due to its inclusion of non-violent firearm offenses.

“Law-abiding gun owners who inadvertently violate NJ’s thicket of hyper-technical firearms possession laws would be treated exactly the same as murderers—thrown in jail to rot for years without bail while they await trial someday for their ‘crimes,’” the group argued in a statement.

The ANJRPC warned the bill “would throw honest gun owners in the gulag for years while they await trial for “’infractions’ like: stopping for food, fuel, going to the bathroom, or medical treatment on the way to or from the target range; transporting firearms to or from one’s place of business, a gun store, hunting, fishing, target shooting competitions, target ranges, re-enactments, gun buyback events, vacation homes or other destinations; widows or widowers turning in firearms of their deceased spouses; [and] possession of antique and black powder firearms (even these firearms could trigger the draconian penalties under this bill).”