From Garden State to Gun Control State: New Jersey’s 1966 Firearms Law and the NRA’s Rise as a Political Lobby

Chris Rasmussen


In 1966, the New Jersey legislature passed An Act Concerning Firearms and Other Dangerous Weapons, which imposed significant regulations on gun buyers and dealers. Two years later, members of Congress frequently cited the Garden State’s tough gun control law as a model for the Gun Control Act of 1968. Although New Jersey’s 1966 firearms law has received little attention from scholars, the battle over gun control in New Jersey marked a significant turning point in the nationwide debate between supporters and opponents of gun control and exposed political fissures that endure today. The National Rifle Association (NRA) mobilized its membership to pressure New Jersey legislators to reject gun control. In its effort to oppose gun control in New Jersey, the NRA honed its arguments that gun control infringed upon citizens’ Second Amendment right “to keep and bear arms,” contended that gun laws would not reduce crime, and charged that keeping records of gun sales would ultimately lead to confiscation of firearms. The NRA’s fight against gun control in Trenton revealed the organization’s enormous influence and signaled its emergence as one of the most effective political interest groups in the United States.

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