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How will NJ’s strict gun laws be affected by the expected SCOTUS ruling?


Evan Nappen has been waiting for this moment for four decades.

An Eatontown gun rights attorney, Nappen literally wrote the book — a tome of over 500 pages — about New Jersey’s Byzantine gun laws.

But his next book could be much shorter, as an impending U.S. Supreme Court ruling on New York’s concealed carry laws threatens to eviscerate New Jersey’s equally strict rules on who can carry a firearm. fist in public. And it could open the door to further challenges to the state’s gun laws, some of the toughest in the nation.

“It’s absolutely going to be a game-changer,” Nappen said of the decision, expected in the coming weeks. “The ruling should finally make it possible for honest, law-abiding citizens to get the unicorn of a New Jersey carrier license. It’s definitely an exciting time.”

His enthusiasm is not shared by people, including gun control advocates and some state officials, who say more guns will mean more shootings.

“We have one of the toughest gun laws in America and we have one of the lowest rates of gun violence in America,” the acting state attorney general said, Matthew Platkin, at The Record and NorthJersey.com. “Any decision canceling or significantly restricting our requirements [for a] Applying for a concealed carry permit will have a significant impact on public safety. There is no question.”

Despite these concerns, most observers think the conservative high court is likely to rule in favor of gun activists. The only question, they said, is how far the judges will go.

Will they narrowly target New York’s concealed carry law and simply demand that the state and others like it lower licensing standards? Or will they take a broader approach and attack the very notion of “emissive” states such as New Jersey, which grant local, county or state authorities the power to approve or deny concealed carry requests?

Judgment will come at a particularly sensitive time. The nation is reeling from an explosion of gun violence over the past two years, as well as an unending series of mass shootings, including the recent massacre at a Texas elementary school that left 19 schoolchildren and two dead teachers.

One thing is certain, said Joseph Blocher, a Duke University constitutional law scholar who specializes in the Second Amendment. If the court strikes down the New York law, seeing a gun strapped to a civilian’s hip will become a more common sight in the Garden State.

“It’s almost inevitable that a decision against New York will mean more guns in more public places in states like New Jersey,” Blocher said.

Whether that’s good or bad depends on who you ask.

Nappen — and many gun rights groups that fly similar banners — will rejoice. The decision has the potential to turn New Jerseyans from victims to advocates, he said.

“How many lives have been lost in New Jersey because law-abiding citizens have been denied the right to defend themselves?” Nappen asked. “You talk about victims of gun violence – I want to know how many people are victims of gun laws that deny upstanding, law-abiding citizens their rights?”

But Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat who imposed a litany of new gun restrictions during his first term, is “deeply concerned about the possible implications of the concealed carry case in New York City,” the agency said. spokeswoman Alyana Alfaro in a statement.

“We will closely review any decision made by the Supreme Court of the United States,” she said.

The governor also wants state lawmakers to pass another round of gun control bills, she said. These proposals would ban .50 caliber rifles, promote micro-stamping technology to help trace bullets, require safety training for gun owners and raise the minimum age to purchase firearms. shoulder at 21 instead of 18, among others.

Platkin, the attorney general, said he was frustrated that the Supreme Court was likely to overturn an age-old law “without any real and apparent concern for impacts on the ground.”

“They don’t have to hug family members of victims who have been killed by a gun,” Platkin said. “We do. And I’m really fighting against an ideological movement that is going to undermine public safety.”

Wide latitude to reject applications

Only California has stricter gun laws than New Jersey, according to a 2021 report from the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, an organization dedicated to strengthening gun control laws.

New Jersey generally prohibits residents from carrying handguns anywhere outside of their home or business without a permit. Residents can apply for a transport permit from their local police department or the New Jersey State Police, depending on their hometown coverage, according to the state police website.

They must complete a detailed application and consent to a search of mental health records, according to state law. And they must provide written proof that they own the handgun they want to carry and are qualified to use it.

But the final hurdle is the greatest: State law requires plaintiffs to “specify in detail the urgent need for self-protection, as evidenced by specific threats or prior attacks, which demonstrate a particular danger to the life of the plaintiff who cannot be avoided by other means”. only by the issuance of a handgun license.”

As a “may issue” state, New Jersey gives police chiefs and the state police chief wide latitude to deny requests. And even if they approve a nominee, a state Superior Court judge makes the final decision.

Nappen, the gun rights lawyer, said this series of hurdles makes it virtually impossible for a private citizen to obtain a transport permit.

“You have to show that you have to use deadly force before you need to use deadly force,” Nappen said. “So basically, if you’ve just been shot and killed, you qualify for a New Jersey carrier license.”

The small number of permits issued annually reflects this.

In New Jersey, authorities approve about 530 transportation permits for individuals each year and deny about 28, according to statistics provided by the state police. Permits are valid for two years.

In 2022, authorities have so far approved 217 requests and denied six, state police said.

These numbers don’t include retired police officers who apply for a transport permit — those applications are processed by a different program, depending on the state.

The New York Affair

How the judges rule in the New York case, called New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, could change everything in New Jersey’s permit process.

The case arose out of a legal challenge by two men, Robert Nash and Brandon Koch, who won licenses to carry concealed handguns for hunting, target practice and self-defense in certain areas. But the licensing officer refused to grant them unlimited licenses because neither man could prove they still needed a firearm for self-defense, according to federal court documents.

The refusal violated their Second Amendment rights, the men say. If the court rules in their favor, other potentially problematic states, including New Jersey, will likely have to rewrite their own laws, said Esther Sanchez-Gomez, senior litigation attorney at Giffords Law Center.

This does not mean that states cannot restrict guns. Ironically, liberal states that embrace gun control may end up adopting the tactics used by the anti-abortion lobby to kill a thousand cuts to the decision that gave women the right to choose.

That means chewing around the edges of any pro-firearms Supreme Court rulings, such as requiring transport permit applicants to meet objective requirements or narrowing the definition of a “public space,” a said Sanchez-Gomez.

The New Jersey attorney general alluded to this during his interview, noting that state officials still have many avenues to follow.

This includes passing Murphy’s gun control legislation, prosecuting gun manufacturers and retailers and pursuing new laws in line with the High Court’s ruling, he said. declared.

“My goal is quite simple: to continue this effort,” Platkin said. “We’re going to do everything we can.”

Steve Janoski covers law enforcement for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news about those protecting your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @stevejanoski