The state of New Jersey has a reputation for having some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation. This includes a nearly impossible process for acquiring a permit to carry a handgun for self-defense.
New Jersey Adds Concealed Carry Restrictions to Gun Control Efforts
Fortunately for New Jersey gun owners wishing to acquire a permit, those tough New Jersey requirements ran afoul of last summer’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case New York Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen.
That Supreme Court ruling basically recognized the right of law-abiding Americans to carry a firearm outside the home for self-defense. Likewise, it sets new standards for determining the constitutionality of measures restricting such activity.
While that was good news for legal gun owners in the Garden State, it didn’t sit well with anti-gun state lawmakers. This includes Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin. He and his fellow Democrats immediately went into high gear, attempting to pass even more restrictive laws concerning concealed carry. Of course, they sold it as an attempt to curb what they call “gun violence.”
“When they say we have the toughest gun laws in the nation they’re right,” Coughlin said on “N.J. Reporters Round Table” when the measure was first introduced. “And the truth is, we’re working to maintain that position.”
The resulting legislation, passed by the New Jersey Senate on Dec. 21 and signed by anti-gun Gov. Phil Murphy the next day, seems to be a direct rebuff of the Supreme Court’s Bruen ruling. As a result, it basically makes it more difficult to carry a concealed firearm in the state of New Jersey.
Expanding the Number of “Sensitive Places”
One provision in the new law greatly expands the number of “sensitive places” locations prohibiting concealed carry. This includes arenas, parks, beaches, restaurants, and theaters. Such “sensitive places” provisions in state laws are likely unconstitutional under Bruen and are already under contention in New York.
Coughlin, however, is adamant that the “sensitive places” argument will hold up to court challenges.
“We worked together with the Attorney General’s office, and we think it will pass muster,” he said. “This is about setting reasonable standards for gun safety and recognizes the fact that the world is different than what the Supreme Court talked about in rendering its Bruen decision.
“The Founding Fathers didn’t have MetLife Stadium, tailgating and 85,000 people at that stadium. That’s a recipe for a potential problem.”
Cutting Out Low-Income Citizens with High Permit Fees
Coughlin’s mistrust of lawful gun owners with concealed carry permits aside, the “sensitive places” provision is just one part of the legislation passed late last month. The measure also drastically increases the cost of getting an already-hard-to-acquire New Jersey carry permit.
To even apply for a permit will now cost New Jersey residents $200, making it restrictive for lower-income citizens who often live in places that make carrying a firearm for self-defense even more necessary.
And, according to the new law: “The application shall be signed by the applicant under oath, and shall be endorsed by not less than four reputable persons who are not related by blood or by law to the applicant and have known the applicant for at least three years preceding the date of application, and who shall certify thereon that the applicant has not engaged in any acts or made any statements that suggest the applicant is likely to engage in conduct, other than lawful self-defense, that would pose a danger to the applicant or others.”
It continues: “The reputable persons also shall provide relevant information supporting the certification, including the nature and extent of their relationship with the applicant and information concerning their knowledge of the applicant’s use of drugs or alcohol.”
Invasive Application Process
Other changes in the new gun control law expand training requirements for a permit, enable the government to use social media and online posts as grounds to deny a permit, ban carry at public gatherings, ban carry in one’s own vehicle, ban carry on all private property unless the owner specifically posts a sign saying it is permitted and give the government the power to deny carry permits using hard-to-define standards like “temperament” and “character.”
Still further provisions require gun owners to acquire special insurance without knowing if such policies are even legal or available. And possibly most maddening of all, it creates a special class of public officials who don’t need a carry permit. As a result, they may carry firearms in places “normal” citizens cannot.
It’s likely that several of the provisions of the new law won’t pass the tests prescribed in the Bruen ruling. And before the ink had even dried on Gov. Murphy’s signature, a number of pro-gun organizations had already filed lawsuits challenging the law.
Facing Legal Challenges
A lawsuit in which one plaintiff is the Association of New Jersey State Rifle & Pistol Clubs—Siegel v. Platlin—was filed in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey immediately following the signing of the law.
“New Jersey has simply changed its approach from one unconstitutional law that allowed ‘no one’ to carry to another unconstitutional law that allows one to carry ‘nowhere,’” the lawsuit states. “Notwithstanding the clear ruling of the United States Supreme Court, New Jersey simply does not want ordinary people to carry handguns in public—as is their fundamental right to do.”
Also, the Firearms Policy Coalition has filed Koons v. Reynolds. This is another challenge to the new law focusing on the “sensitive places” provisions.
That complaint states: “These new ‘sensitive place’ and vehicle transport restrictions are so far-reaching and punitive that they effectively obliterate the ability to bear arms in public for the purpose of protecting one’s self and family—which the Supreme Court has ruled to be the ‘core’ of the Second Amendment’s protections.”
As gun-haters and 2A supporters fight it out in court, one thing is certain—New Jersey gun owners still haven’t gotten the relief they need from the unjust gun control laws they have lived under for so long.