Gun owners in formerly “may-issue” carry states have been eagerly waiting to see how their state governments would react to the Supreme Court’s ruling in the NYSRPA vs. Bruen case a few months back. Last week, not only did New Jersey say “hell no” to the notion of expanding concealed carry permitting, the state legislature signaled it actually intends to double down on restrictions. They want to make New Jersey concealed carry rules the most stringent of any state in the union.
On Monday, Oct. 24, the New Jersey Assembly Judiciary Committee approved Assembly Bill A4769 — if it passes in the state legislature, the bill will make Jersey the most difficult place in the country to legally carry a handgun.
The proposed legislation appears to be a direct response to the Bruen decision handed down in June, which struck down New York’s prior “may issue” permitting model that required applicants to demonstrate a unique need to carry a handgun in public. The ruling set a legal precedent, casting doubt upon similar laws in New Jersey and other states.
“New Jersey lawmakers treat [Bruen] like an open invitation to ban carry anywhere they damn well please, including just about every common public place there is,” Scott Bach told Free Range American. He is the executive director for the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs (ANJRPC), the official NRA affiliate in New Jersey and the oldest and largest gun rights group in the state.
Similar to New York’s legislative response to the Bruen ruling, the recently introduced New Jersey bill incorporates language that recognizes the “justifiable cause” standard as unconstitutional, then proceeds to dramatically expand the list of gun-free zones in the state. The message seems to be something like this: “If we have to approve carry permits for all law-abiding citizens, we’ll just designate about every public area and event a ‘sensitive ‘place where carry is prohibited, including private vehicles.”
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“I Don’t See How This Bill Is Constitutional…”
According to New Jersey Assemblyman and bill sponsor Joe Danielsen — a self-proclaimed gun owner — his legislation would have “very little” impact on law-abiding citizens. “This bill’s putting safe people with safe guns in safe places in a safe manner,” he said. “This bill is more about the word safe than it is about the word gun.”
Danielsen and his colleagues propose third-degree criminal penalties for carrying in “sensitive” places like parks, beaches, restaurants, theaters, stadiums, arenas, and many other common public locations.
Other restricted environments include personal vehicles, public gatherings, and all private property unless the owner posts a notice specifically allowing it. In fact, the list is so exhaustive it has prompted many New Jersey residents to wonder where one could legally carry under the new law.
Sen. Holly Schepisi, who represents the state’s 39th District, told her constituents via Facebook that one of the bill’s sponsors was repeatedly asked this very question during a recent hearing — and outright refused to answer.
Bruen allowed for the establishment of carry-free zones at state and local levels but confined them to specific locations where government functions occur.
Schepisi told Free Range American that the expansion of gun-free zones is only the tip of the iceberg. “I don’t see how this bill is constitutional,” she said. “It seems to be the feeling amongst the ‘aristocratic Democrats,’ that they will only follow the Constitution for items that they believe in, rather than follow the Constitution according to the vow [taken upon election to the public office].”
“This particular bill I find to be unconscionable because all you are doing is turning otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals,” she added. “Based upon this administration’s very real desire to eliminate all firearms from our state, they’re going prosecute inadvertent mistakes harsher than they do for actual criminals.”
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What’s in the New Jersey Carry Bill?
Schepisi said provisions in the proposed legislation would create so many legal risks for the lawful residents of New Jersey that the vast majority are likely to conclude that carrying a handgun in public is simply not worth the risk.
For example, if convicted of inadvertently going someplace with an otherwise legal weapon, the offender could potentially be disqualified from obtaining a state-issued Firearm Purchase Identification Card — meaning that person could lose the right to buy a gun in the future.
The bill even fails to carve out exceptions for retired police officers, many of whom volunteer to protect schools in the state.
The law would also create a host of costly logistical hurdles for gun owners who wish to carry, unfairly impacting low-income residents. These include:
- A $200 application fee for concealed carry permits (up from $50), which requires renewal every two years.
- Expensive training that consists of an online course, in-person classroom instruction, and range time.
- The purchase of firearm liability insurance and a requirement to display proof of insurance during encounters with law enforcement. Ironically, New Jersey had, not long ago, prohibited the sale of such plans in the state.
Finally, Schepisi pointed out the bill will allow individual municipalities in the state to enact their own restrictions and penalties; undoubtedly, this would create a confusing patchwork of regulations that change from town to town, leaving citizens to sort out the details for themselves — again, with the potential of creating perilous legal risk for residents.
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Bill Would “Completely Gut” Everything Bruen Stands For
FRA also spoke to Scott Bach, executive director for the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs (ANJRPC), the official NRA affiliate in New Jersey and the oldest and largest gun rights group in the state.
“The bill pays lip service to Bruen but then proceeds to completely gut everything Bruen stands for. The bill does an end-run around Bruen by turning the ‘sensitive places’ exception on its head,” Bach said. “Sensitive places under Bruen are a very narrow class of locations where core government functions occur, like courthouses, legislatures, and polling places. But New Jersey lawmakers treat it like an open invitation to ban carry anywhere they damn well please, including just about every common public place there is.”
The Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) issued a statement decrying the Assembly bill when it first passed in committee and vowed to “utilize every available instrument to remedy these abominable wrongs.”
“This measure puts the People into a litany of legal and personal traps, where the consequences of failure to comply with obtuse and infantilizing rules include increased state violence and incarceration — putting peaceable people in government cages — and upending their otherwise peaceful lives,” said the organization in its statement.
“The audacity of the authors and the committee to even propose such a measure reveals the unbridled conceit and disrespect for the People they serve, the Constitution, and a misunderstanding of the role of the legislature,” the FPC statement continues. “The natural and enumerated rights of the People are simply outside the purview of The New Jersey Assembly. The right to keep and bear arms pre-exist [sic] the government itself. This right is not negotiable or subject to debate.”
Will the New Jersey Concealed Carry Bill Pass?
A4769 has been fast-tracked by the New Jersey legislature, with a Senate hearing scheduled for today, Oct. 27, 2022. The first hearing for A4769’s companion legislation, Senate Bill 3214, is also scheduled for Oct. 27 in the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee. That companion Senate bill makes several changes to the state’s Firearm Purchaser Identification Card (FPIC), which is required to purchase any firearm, including long guns, in the state.
Democrats control both the General Assembly and State Senate, and the bill would ultimately end up on Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk, so the political landscape makes it a real possibility the bill will be signed into law very soon.
“The net effect of this bill is to ban carry nearly everywhere,” Bach said. “It’s a flagrant violation of Bruen that will not stand. My organization intends to file suit when this becomes law and looks forward to having New Jersey eventually pay our legal fees.”
The FPC says anyone who would like to participate as a plaintiff in litigation against this bill and other gun control measures in the state to visit its 2Ahotline.com website.
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