The lie that launched a thousand fears (updated with maps)

Fear has gripped the areas of Mahwah and surrounding towns in Northern Bergen county.  As was mentioned in my previous post on the unconstitutional actions taken by Council President Robert Hermansen, the township has restricted public comments in their meetings (in violation of statute) on topics of public concern, they have attempted to ban certain groups from public parks and they have taken the extraordinary step of even subordinating their top police official (to the ire of the law enforcement community as can be seen in a post by the local PBA here) when he refused to put nefarious political moves ahead of public safety.

Comments at the local town council meetings referenced “invasions” and harassment of residents (although Open Public Record requests indicate no complaints were lodged with township police or officials). Allegations of “blockbusting” (and worse) permeated Facebook posts and online forums, as residents scrambled for answers and all the while, “leaders” such as Robert Hermansen, the Council Preisdent of Mahwah, stoked fears and resentment. Read More “The lie that launched a thousand fears (updated with maps)”

Mahwah: Stop calling this anti-semitism; it’s about (((codes))) and (((code enforcement))) (and Jews) [UPDATED with OPRA response]

On July 27th, 2017, I attended a public session of the Mahwah Town Council.  These were the ground rules: no mention of religion and no mention of the Eruv.  The claim was seemingly simple – the meeting is about ordinances and enforcement, not antisemitism or Eruvs, so there is no reason to permit comments that may reflect poorly on the Township.

Mahwah’s Council through their lawyer stated that not only council members, but even members of the public, were not permitted to utter such comments.  Regardless of whether an issue was one of public concern or related to items on the agenda, mentioning such topics as religion, the Eruv, a letter received by the Bergen County Prosecutor and several others, was verboten.

When questioned as to why this policy was created, Nylema Nabbie, Mahwah’s attorney from the law firm of Gittleman, Muhlstock & Chewcaske, LLP stated: “I do not want a situation where I sit here and I allow comments to come in to create a record that can then be used against this body in a subsequent litigation. That is the purpose of restricting comments.” Read More “Mahwah: Stop calling this anti-semitism; it’s about (((codes))) and (((code enforcement))) (and Jews) [UPDATED with OPRA response]”

Supporting the unpopular because it’s [a] right.

On Tuesday, May 23rd, the township council is set to pass ordinance 13-2017  (“An Ordinance Regulating Roadway Solicitation by Charitable Organizations”) on second reading.  On its face, it’s a minor ordinance that probably wouldn’t ruffle anyone’s feathers, let alone raise alarm.  But it’s likely an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment and this should not be permitted to pass without inspection.

The issue begins with the state of New Jersey’s statutory ban on solicitation for money in roadways.  The statute has an exemption for towns to permit charitable organizations to collect funds in roadways, if they so desire to enable the exemption.

You can find the State statute (NJSA 39:4-60), here. It says, in relevant part: Read More “Supporting the unpopular because it’s [a] right.”

Want a common sense reform: do something else!


  • Stop the attempts to incrementally limit guns for everyone and focus on the right populations
  • Realize why these legislative attempts fail to adequately address the concerns of people on all sides of the debate
  • Proposed steps to make it easier for law abiding citizens to purchase firearms
  • Proposed restrictions to make it easier to prevent prohibited persons from easily purchasing weapons

After every mass shooting, there’s a call for some kind of reform. Typically, it’s mandatory background checkssecret lists or bans on certain firearms and now there has been a lot of talk about a proposal to start using secret lists created by unaccountable bureaucracies that deny due process, all in the name of safety and security. If we are going to open this conversation for reform up again, let’s not blow it by doing what we’ve done and expecting a different result.

I have watched both sides in the “debate” try to explain their positions, with very little willingness to agree on, well, anything. Some of this is because of a lack of knowledge of culture and terminology – if you don’t understand the terms of the debate, it can be infuriating when you call for a ban or restrictions on something that won’t actually make any difference or something far beyond what you actual mean to say. Let’s say your solution is a ban on “Assault Rifles”? Imagine someone calling for a ban on “attack dogs” after a pit bull is reported to have mauled someone. When someone asks, what is an assault weapon, they aren’t (merely) being snarky, they are asking the equivalent of “what is an attack dog”?

Details matter. Read More “Want a common sense reform: do something else!”

Just Because I’m Paranoid: Addressing Obstacles to Gun Control

The story of Joseph Pelleteri and others like him create one of the biggest obstacles to “commons sense” gun legislation — the fear that otherwise law abiding citizens will be snared in a law enforcement nightmare.  It is that fear, embodied in the prosecutions of people attempting to navigate a labyrinthine system of regulations that dooms most gun control measures.

Imagine winning a brand new sports car with a V8 engine in a contest hosted by your local police department.  You keep the car in your garage, never driving it, and one day while the cops are at your home on an unrelated issue, they arrest you.  V8’s you are informed were made illegal in the time between winning the car and today.  You find it a bit absurd, after all, since the same police arresting you were the ones that gave you the car.  You’re less amused when you find out you’re sentenced to jail for many years.

This sounds absurd.  Surely, no one would change a law and then arrest you for breaking it.  But for Joseph Pelleteri, it was no joking matter.

Pelleteri, an expert marksman who was once employed as a firearms instructor, won a contest hosted by a police department.  He received, from the police, a legal Marlin semi-automatic rifle that held 17 rounds of ammunition.  Several years later, the State of New Jersey amended N.J.S.A  2C:39-1(w)(4) dealing with firearms and because his rifle held more than 15 rounds, Mr. Pelleteri’s rifle was subject to the “assault firearm” ban enacted in 1990.  The decision in his case says that “[w]hen the police recovered the gun from defendant’s residence in December 1993, it still had the manufacturer’s tags and the owner’s manual attached to the trigger guard.” Read More “Just Because I’m Paranoid: Addressing Obstacles to Gun Control”