02/11/2013 01:56 pm ET Updated Apr 13, 2013

New Jersey One-Gun Law Upheld, Setting a Precedent

New Jersey's law that limits handgun purchases to one per month was just upheld by the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, creating a federal law foundation for other states to follow. So far, California and Maryland have one-gun-a-month laws along with the Garden State, which has among the strongest gun laws in the country.

The challenge to the New Jersey One Gun law came from a unit of the NRA, the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs. The NRA has pursued a strategy of using litigation to eliminate gun-safety laws one at a time, which increases the sales and profits of the arms industry that funds the NRA.

The NRA detachment sued in federal court seeking an injunction to block the New Jersey law, claiming that the paperwork required to buy multiple guns violated the Due Process Clause of the Constitution. This did not impress the appeals court, which noted that the paperwork was a state-provided application form where a buyer has to write down the serial number of the gun.

Importantly, the unanimous Third Circuit ruled that the One Gun Law was valid because it regulated, but did not prohibit, the sale of handguns. The court said the state form was not too onerous for gun collectors and competitive shooters to fill out.

Illegal Arms Dealers

One-Gun-A-Month laws are not aimed at handgun hoarders, but rather at illegal arms dealers who buy guns in quantity and sell them individually to criminals. Take for example, Kimberly Dinkins who was indicted in January for buying 25 firearms in a 15-day period with the intent to sell them to others. At least one of her handguns made it into the hands of a suspected drug dealer, according to U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride. The semi-automatic handguns had been purchased at three Virginia gun shows on consecutive weekends.

Virginia used to have a one-gun law as well, but repealed it last year over the opposition of survivors in the Virginia Tech shooting rampage of 2007. "Getting rid of the one-handgun-a-month law will make it easier for gun traffickers to purchase handguns in bulk," said Lori Haas, whose daughter Emily was wounded in the Virginia Tech shooting where 32 people were murdered. "There have been too many tragedies in other states fueled by guns that come from Virginia, and this will only make the situation worse."

The Virginia one-gun law had been passed in 1993 to choke off the river of guns from Virginia to New York and other metro areas in the Northeast. In 1991, the ATF found that 40 percent of the guns found at crime scenes in New York had been purchased in Virginia. A Christopher Newport University/Richmond Times-Dispatch survey at the time found 66 percent of voters opposed the law's repeal.

Meanwhile the NRA has its hands full in New Jersey, where safety-conscious legislators have introduced 43 separate bills regulating handguns since January 1. They include the elimination of mail order, Internet or other anonymous ammunition sales; disqualification of people named on the Terrorist Watchlist from buying handguns; and background checks for private gun sales.

New Jersey could set a national precedent.