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Bill strengthening concealed carry laws will face legal challenge

A new state law that strengthens restrictions regarding who is eligible for a public carry permit and establishes a list of places where people who possess a carry permit cannot bring their firearms is expected to face an immediate legal challenge in New Jersey.

Within the past week, Gov. Phil Murphy signed A-4769/S-3214 into law and said the action delivered on the promise he made in the immediate aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Bruen decision when he unveiled a legislative proposal to maintain New Jersey’s status as a model for gun safety by strengthening restrictions for who is eligible for a public carry permit, and establishing a list of places where people with carry permits cannot bring their firearms.

According to a Dec. 22 press release from Murphy’s office, in June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the N.Y. State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen case that it is impermissible to require applicants in New York to show “proper cause” to carry a handgun in public.

The court’s decision had the effect of invalidating New Jersey’s longstanding laws restricting public carry to those individuals who could demonstrate a “justifiable need,” according to the press release.

Murphy quickly unveiled a proposal that, consistent with Bruen, would strengthen the statutory disqualifiers for those individuals eligible for a carry permit, while significantly expanding the list of sensitive places where individuals cannot carry firearms, according to the press release.

At the same moment Murphy was signing the legislation into law on Dec. 22, the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs was filing a federal lawsuit seeking to swiftly and decisively block what it called an “unconstitutional new measure.”

The association is seeking a restraining order to immediately halt implementation of the new law while the case proceeds, according to a press release. The lawsuit is spearheaded by association counsel Dan Schmutter.

According to the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, “The new law flagrantly and intentionally disrupts both the Second Amendment and the U.S. Supreme Court’s Bruen decision upholding the right of honest citizens to carry firearms for personal protection.

“Now that New Jersey can no longer block the issuance of carry permits, the state is trying to change what it means to have a carry permit in the first place.

“The new law bans carry in most common public places, mandates non-existent liability insurance and significantly increases permit fees to prevent lower-income citizens from exercising their rights,” the association said in its press release.

The association’s executive director, Scott Bach, said, “By signing this legislation, Gov. Murphy has effectively ended any chance of ever being elected to higher office outside of New Jersey, and has confirmed the Constitution is indeed ‘above his pay grade.’ Not only will this legislation go down in flames, but the Murphy administration will end up paying the very substantial legal costs of gun owners to bring it down.”

Bach said a restraining order is being sought imminently, seeking to halt implementation of the new law while the case proceeds.

In his comments upon signing the legislation into law, Murphy said, “Today’s bill signing is the culmination of months of negotiations between this administration and our partners in the Legislature, delivering on the promise I made this summer to keep New Jersey safe in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s awful decision.

“While I strongly disagree with that decision, we must abide by it, and today’s law fully respects the Second Amendment while keeping guns out of the wrong hands and preventing them from proliferating in our communities.

“I am proud to sign this common sense legislation which prohibits carrying guns in sensitive places, including our daycares, hospitals, libraries and stadiums,” Murphy said.

Under the law signed by Murphy, the list of sensitive places where concealed carry is not permissible includes the following three categories (a complete list is included in the law):

High-density locations

• Entertainment venues, including stadiums, arenas, amusement parks, casinos, racetracks, and publicly owned libraries and museums;

• Youth sporting events and other recreational facilities, such as public parks, beaches, and playgrounds;

• Bars, restaurants where alcohol is served, and any other locations that serve alcohol for on-premises consumption;

• Airports and public transportation hubs;

Locations with vulnerable populations

• Schools, colleges, and universities;

• Daycare and child-care facilities;

• Hospitals and health care facilities;

• Long-term care facilities and nursing homes;

• Correctional facilities, juvenile justice facilities, and halfway houses;

• Homeless shelters;

Locations with governmental and First Amendment activity

• Polling places;

• Courthouses;

• Law enforcement stations and offices;

• Government buildings and locations with government meetings;

• Demonstrations, protests, and licensed public gatherings;

In addition to those three categories, the bill sets a default rule that firearms cannot be carried on private property, including homes, businesses, stores and houses of worship, unless the property owner expressly communicates permission through express consent or specific signs.

The only exceptions to these rules are for law enforcement officers or private security guards, according to the press release.

In addition to the expanded list of sensitive places, the bill will strengthen permit requirements by expanding ineligibility for a carry permit to the following groups:

• Persons with an outstanding arrest warrant for an indictable offense;

• Persons subject to certain restraining orders, including persons who have violated either a temporary or a final restraining order;

• Persons subject to restraining orders in other jurisdictions;

•Persons subject to voluntary admissions to mental institutions or hospitals.

The bill also makes for a more vigorous carry permit application process. Applicants must now include four endorsements of character from non-related persons.

Upon submission of their application, applicants and their endorsers must now be interviewed by law enforcement personnel to determine whether the applicant is likely to engage in conduct that would result in harm to themselves or others.

Additionally, New Jersey will become the first state in the nation to require all permit carriers to maintain and provide proof of liability insurance with coverage for at least $300,000 on account of injury, death or damage to property arising out of ownership, maintenance, operation or use of a firearm, according to the press release.

The bill increases the handgun permit application fee to $25 from $2, where it has sat since 1966.

“Today is not a day for victory. Today is a solemn recognition of a law that will alleviate a potential increase in violence, injury or death in New Jersey from the increase in concealed handguns anticipated by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that has usurped New Jersey’s former protective law designed for public safety,” said Dolores Phillips, legislative director for CeasefireNJ, based in Princeton.

“When public safety is eroded and the use of concealed handguns is increased, there is no chance for nonviolence, only further violence.

“The decision for the New Jersey Democratic leadership to take on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling to reduce its harmfulness and the consequent social anxiety the ruling creates from the relaxing of New Jersey’s handgun carry standard deserves much praise by those of us seeking a nonviolent society.

“CeasefireNJ and all its members who have advocated for gun violence prevention commends the exemplary leadership of Gov. Murphy, Senate President Nicholas Scutari, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and the legislative sponsorships in the Assembly and Senate for getting this public safety legislation signed into law today. We thank you all,” Phillips said.

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