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On Friday, our own Charles C. W. Cooke and Kevin Williamson discussed the latest firearms-related injustice from New Jersey, in which Carol Bowne was murdered by her abusive ex-boyfriend — against whom she had a restraining order — while awaiting approval to own a firearm. Cameron Gray ably took the matter up again yesterday, reiterating the injustice New Jersey committed against her.
Amazingly, there was yet more news on the Garden State’s terrible gun laws yesterday: Governor Chris Christie pardoned Steffon Josey-Davis for unlawful possession of a weapon (a felony). More specifically, Josey-Davis was charged and convicted for forgetting to unload his legal handgun and merely securing it in his glove compartment during a harried commute to work as a security guard. Though his legal troubles are now over, his financial ones are not, and his legal defense fund is still taking donations.
This is the third time I am aware of that Christie has intervened on behalf of a generally-lawful citizen — Shaneen Allen and Brian Aitken being the other two — charged with felony weapons violations. Despite the injustice and the fact that no one was actually in danger in these cases, the most unsettling aspect of these cases is that these people got into trouble because of their lawful and responsible instincts: Aitken came to authorities’ attention because his family called the police to say they were worried he might be suicidal, and found the guns he had stored in the trunk because he thought they’d be safer there than in his apartment; and and both Josey-Davis and Aitken would almost certainly have left the scene of their traffic stops with nothing more than a citation had they not disclosed to the arresting officers that they had a weapon on them. As Cooke and others have noted, Carol Bowne died in no small part because she was unwilling to break the law to protect herself.
The people Christie has pardoned are not exceptional in the sense of the particular circumstances of what they did, only insofar as their cases came to the attention of people who could help them fight back. New Jersey’s firearms laws — as well as the attitude its elected leaders and law enforcement officials have taken with regard to prosecuting them — are inherently illiberal. As welcome as these occasional pardons, commutations, and interventions are, they cannot remedy such systemically unjust laws. Bad laws breed contempt for the law itself, something everyone on the right — especially law-and-order types like Christie — should be appalled by.
Williamson and Cooke concluded that the Bowne case was an ideal point for Christie to use to pivot toward a more conservative take on the Second Amendment. They’re right. But with Josey-Davis pardon yesterday, he’s now got two good reasons.
Let’s hope that’s enough.