New Jersey – -(AmmoLand.com)- As the gubernatorial race is just getting off the ground, I had the opportunity to chat with Phil Rizzo, one of the candidates eyeing the GOP ticket. To give you some background information on Rizzo, he is a New Jersey businessman, pastor, and one of the few holders of a New Jersey Concealed Carry Permit. Within hours of Rizzo announcing that he was running, the New Jersey gun-related social media pages were burning with questions about his stance on the Second Amendment.
We chatted quite a bit about New Jersey politics. One of the difficult things that any conservative sitting in the state’s chief executive seat is there is only so much that can be done without the support of the legislature. He’s not a big fan of executive overreach, stating that he does not agree with the ways that the Biden-Harris administration nor the Murphy administration handles things. Rizzo told me about his view concerning the role of Governor in New Jersey:
New Jersey Governor is the most powerful Governor of all the fifty states. There’s a certain amount of weight that the Governor can lean on various groups, even to outside of their purview, this not something that the executive branch can handle… I think that erases the balance of power. I’m a Constitutionalist. I think that is very dangerous, when you start governing by executive order…It’s bad for America to have this hard pendulum.
Pistol Carry Permits
When I asked him about carry permits in the Garden State, he basically said this would be a non-issue should he take office.
I’m encouraging people to get their Florida non-resident carry permits…
He said this came at the heels of the shooting in Texas when an armed member of the security team stopped a threat to congregants. The result was one loss of innocent life but the situation could have gotten much worse had the shooter not been neutralized.
Once people saw the video they started to understand how important the right to self-protect is. So, I started with ministry leaders, pastors, deacons, all these different people at churches. And it grew to friends, family, and business owners. After they came to the range and got training for the CCW, everyone’s statement was “well does that let me carry in New Jersey?” I’d tell them “No.”…Under a Rizzo administration, I will bypass the liberal legislature, and I work with Governor DeSantis to sign reciprocity in New Jersey, where people with their non-resident Florida concealed carry will be able to carry in New Jersey. That will happen immediately in the first 100 days of a Rizzo administration.
While we were on the topic of carry in New Jersey, I did not throw any soft pitches. I asked him directly how he was able to get a New Jersey carry permit. Many of my readers and colleagues all wanted to know about his “need” letter. For Rizzo, it was a number of things:
I threw everything, including the kitchen sink into my application from being disabled, the fact that I’m a pastor in two urban areas, both in Hudson County, the fact that we have cash on hand within the ministry from offerings, plus we have some family owned Rizzo businesses and they are cash based. So I threw absolutely everything at it. And it took me about eight months to get it issued. So, even though I think ‘justifiable need’ is total non-sense, we presented enough justifiable need for it to go through.
When Rizzo mentioned being disabled in his need letter, it is important to note, in this instance, that he does only have one arm. He did further state that the carry permit is restricted for “work purposes” and this is not an unrestricted carry permit.
I expressed to Rizzo that some of the murmurs in the firearm community about his carry permit being issued were because this was just another guy that has political connections. I alluded to other businessmen that ran cash-based businesses not being able to get carry permits in the past. I asked him if this was a case of “good for me but not for thee?” This is what he had to say about that statement:
My entire quote on quote political career is 13 weeks old and I literally am being opposed by every political person in New Jersey, starting with my own party, and come June it will also be all the Democrats. So, I have absolutely no pull in the political world where it’s good for me and not for thee, that is the furthest thing from the truth…I am not connected, I have no connections what-so-ever.
My personal suspicion is the need requirement for work purposes was met due to the amount of cash that he is responsible for in addition to his disability. Emphasis added to in addition to his disability. But, that is conjecture and no one but the issuing authority and judge can say for certain. He capped off his commentary on carry in New Jersey with this statement:
My job is to help the Second Amendment community to accomplish the exact same goal, and it’s never going to happen through the legislature. If I step in as Governor, we get reciprocity with DeSantis, and we’re off to the races.
Standard Magazines: aka “High Capacity Gun Magazines”
One of the many new challenges gun owners have had to deal with under a Murphy administration was the new law limiting the capacity of detachable magazines. Given this is a law that is already on the books, there is not much someone could do from the executive side of things, but this is what he had to say about the limitations on our ability to defend ourselves in the Garden State (He gave me his commentary from the perspective of his stance on executive orders):
My opinion is the magazine capacity is unconstitutional. So even though they passed it through the legislature, I believe it is unconstitutional, that is something that I would look at as an executive order…to be fair, I am highly critical of Phil Murphy and Joe Biden for governing by executive order, I do not believe that is right…However, just because it passed through a liberal legislature, doesn’t mean it’s constitutional. That would be something I would look at, in making an executive order, that the magazine that comes from the manufacturer, that that magazine capacity stands, period. Right out of the box, that’s legal. And that the ten round magazine [law] goes away. I’m not saying that I will do that, I’m saying that 1000% I will look at that, because I don’t want to be another executive order maker on the opposite side of the isle…I’d like to do it under the law. I’d like to lean on the legislature to make laws according to the Constitution. That they would un-do that [law] legislatively, if they don’t I’d absolutely be willing to look at that very very closely and executive order that.
On Red Flag Laws
I asked Rizzo about his stance on “red flag” laws and he was quite succinct. He did segue into his stance on liberties in general, and what we’re up against in New Jersey:
The red flag laws are absolutely insane. It completely denies due process. That’s a total nightmare for the Second Amendment community.
I will lean on the legislature to get out of people’s lives…Liberals are not realists, they don’t believe in compromise. They don’t believe in rationale. They don’t believe in what’s the spirit of the law. They are about getting you on the ground, stepping on your neck, and they are relentless. It’s time that somebody steps up is actually willing to fight for law abiding citizens in New Jersey.
Semi-Auto Rifles : aka “Assualt Rifles”
Another topic that I felt we needed to hear from Rizzo on was so-called “assault rifles”, so I asked him about semi-automatic rifles and how they are so strictly regulated in New Jersey. Rizzo had this to say about the optics and his stance on the issue:
It’s the same scare tactics that they took to shut down our entire state with Coronavirus. They are masters at messaging. It’s really frustrating to watch people hear phrases like ‘assault rifle’, and I literary choke on even saying it…it’s just ridiculous. I am wide open on semi-automatic rifles, I don’t care what the first two letters are. It’s just crazy what the left was able to message people on, create fear, and control the narrative by simple wording.
Tax Payer’s Money Spent on Gun Control?
Governor Murphy recently announced he wanted to secure an additional two million dollars to the Rutgers GVRC, a program he established. I talked a bit about how taxpayer money is being funneled into this program that is designed to usurp the freedoms and Constitutional rights of New Jersey citizens. Rizzo was very upfront with me in not being aware of the program, but he is going to put it on his radar. This is what he had to say when I brought Rutgers up:
I’m not familiar with that specific issue right now, so I’m comfortable to tell you I don’t know, I’m not going to give you some canned answer. But I can tell you this; I’m watching Rutgers very closely in the area of medical freedom. They are mandating vaccines on children but not their staff. Rutgers University and the state financing that they are getting I have a high high priority to review. If there are other issues there, like this one you’re informing me of, Rutgers and I we’re going to have a very deep conversation and it’s not going to last very long. Because I have a billion reasons for them to change their positions on things.
I ended the interview by asking Rizzo if he had any message that he wants to get out and he had the following to say in closure:
I think that history shows us that any culture or society that starts to ramp up on the citizenry being able to protect themselves, it never ends well. I see the writing on the wall here in America. I’m running for Governor of New Jersey, it’s plainly obvious in New Jersey we have a real situation on our hands, and I’m looking forward to taking that fight to preserve our liberties here in America.
I don’t personally know Phil Rizzo. I had the opportunity to chat with him earlier in the year the day after he announced he was throwing his hat in the race. Our off-the-record conversation was enough for me to want to follow up with him. After talking with him again today, I feel he is a Second Amendment friendly. One of the benefits of Rizzo running is that his is not a politician. But since he does not have any type of policy or voting record, there is no way to confirm what he has to say. If New Jersey gun owners are looking for some sort of a rating on firearms, Rizzo would get an A? in my book. Rizzo self-identified as a “Constitutionalist” in our chat. He certainly is talking the talk when it comes to Second Amendment freedoms and was willing to be put on record.
John Petrolino is a US Merchant Marine Officer, writer, author of Decoding Firearms: An Easy to Read Guide on General Gun Safety & Use and NRA certified pistol, rifle, and shotgun instructor living under and working to change New Jersey’s draconian and unconstitutional gun laws. You can find him on the web at www.johnpetrolino.com on twitter at @johnpetrolino and on instagram @jpetrolinoiii .