After a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling effectively invalidated significant elements of New Jersey’s restricted permission system for the concealed carry of firearms, state legislators are attempting to adopt a new version of the legislation by the end of the year.
The legislation (A4769), which is sponsored by Gov. Phil Murphy and his fellow Democrats who presently control both houses of the Legislature, has been met with staunch resistance from Republican politicians and gun rights supporters during a series of protracted and frequently boisterous public hearings.
The legislation was approved by the state Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on Monday by a vote of 8 to 4.
For decades, New Jersey’s concealed carry regulations were among the strictest in the country, to the point where only former law enforcement officers could demonstrate a “justifiable need” to obtain a permit.
However, the Supreme Court ruled in June to virtually invalidate New York’s concealed carry regulations — a judgment generally referred to as the Bruen case — rendering New Jersey’s concealed carry statute susceptible to legal challenges.
Democratic leaders in New Jersey replied with a bill to revamp concealed carry in the state, arguing that precautions are necessary if more people carry concealed firearms.
Their idea is supported by a variety of proponents of gun control and law enforcement groups.
Legislative leaders missed a self-imposed November deadline to pass the law, but Monday’s vote forwarded it to the full state Senate, which will meet again on December 22. If passed at that time, the bill would travel to the governor’s desk.
Murphy has indicated a willingness to sign it.
From then, the measure’s legal destiny is uncertain. A federal judge determined in November that crucial sections of New York’s post-Supreme Court ruling cleanup plan are unconstitutional, leaving the bill in limbo.
Both opponents and proponents of the New Jersey measure anticipate litigation as soon as the ink is dry.
“There is no doubt that this will be contested,” said state Senate President Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, a key bill proponent. We feel, however, that it struck the proper balance and will pass constitutional muster.
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The idea would force New Jersey gun owners seeking a carry permit to acquire liability insurance and complete training classes while restricting the carrying of firearms in a variety of “sensitive sites” including schools, public parks, courthouses, and bars.
Gun safety advocates argued to lawmakers that these limits are necessary to reduce gun violence in New Jersey, which has one of the lowest per capita gun death rates in the country, citing Mississippi, which has the worst rate, as an example of a state with lax permitting regulations.
Gun rights advocates respond that Massachusetts, which has an even lower gun death rate per capita than New Jersey, has a less stringent permitting system than what is planned in New Jersey.
They contended that the expansive list of restricted areas would lead to confusion and the arrest of otherwise law-abiding gun owners.
The proposal would raise the cost of a concealed carry permit from $50 to $200. Additionally, applicants would be responsible for their own training and insurance costs.
Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, stated on Monday that the planned fee increases were “regressive and far too excessive” in comparison to other states.
Joseph Loporto, who represents the non-profit organization Safe Way Out, which provides safety consulting and self-defense training to domestic abuse victims and others, stated that a majority of their clients acknowledged a need for a carry permit when polled.
“Many of our consumers are poor,” he remarked, citing Newark, Paterson, and Trenton as examples of urban centers.
“Making this process so difficult and expensive is a thinly veiled attempt to restrict the rights of the poor, and this has obvious racial and ethnic ramifications.”
The bill was endorsed by Lisa Winkler, an organizer for the gun safety group Moms Demand Action.
Wiker told legislators, “The notion that a nice guy with a gun resorting to vigilantism will make us safer is a fiction unsupported by either logic or data.”
If firearms made us safer, the United States would be one of the safest developed nations, not one of the most dangerous.