New Jersey is facing a host of legal challenges to the state’s restrictive gun laws in light of a US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn limits on concealed carry permits, which has emboldened Garden State Second Amendment groups looking to peel back gun restrictions.
In response to a spate of mass shootings and a Supreme Court decision challenging restrictions on gun access, Gov. Phil Murphy this week signed seven laws aimed at further restricting firearms.
But after the US Supreme Court ruling in a concealed carry case, the state now faces at least two federal legal challenges to its restrictions on “assault weapons” as well as another lawsuit regarding a cap on ammunition clips, according to gun rights advocates.
That leaves New Jersey’s gun policy in limbo. Will the future mean tougher laws for obtaining guns, as lawmakers want, or looser restrictions given the Supreme Court decision?
For the first time in a long time, New Jersey gun rights advocates are feeling confident.
The US high court’s ruling, known as New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, “opens up the possibility of scrutinizing all modern-era different laws, which seem to be preoccupied with banning hardware as opposed to punishing wrongdoers and intervening with people with mental health problems,” said Scott Bach, the head of the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs.
Bach’s organization filed suit in federal court earlier this month, arguing New Jersey “has criminalized one of the most common and important means by which its citizens exercise their fundamental right of self-defense.”
The state now faces two federal lawsuits over its assault weapons ban: one from the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, a local affiliate of the NRA, and another from the national Firearms Policy Coalition, which seeks to challenge restrictive gun laws.
Another 2018 suit from the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs over restrictions on magazine sizes is also now in play, Bach said.
While signing the seven pieces of legislation aiming to curb gun violence on Tuesday, Murphy said: “They are common-sense. They are smart. They live up to our Jersey values.”
In most of the US, gun owners have little difficulty legally carrying their weapons in public. But in New York, New Jersey, California and a host of other states, the opposite has been true.
The Supreme Court decision created a new paradigm for how courts should handle concealed carry applications and also changed the landscape for other restrictions on carrying criminals in public in New Jersey and around the US
A spokesman for acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin, who is named as a defendant in the two major suits, declined to comment. But Platkin saw these legal challenges coming.
“The opinion in Bruen (the Supreme Court gun permit case) will encourage individuals to challenge other laws, ranging from our limits on who can buy guns, to our limits on the most dangerous kinds of guns New Jersey writers can buy,” he in an op-ed last week.
Judges handling challenges to New Jersey’s gun laws now have a different calculus to run. In its decision, the Supreme Court struck down New York’s “proper cause” requirement, but other states’ laws are expected to face quick challenges. About one-quarter of the US population lives in states expected to be affected by the ruling, according to the Associated Press.
“The only people who follow hardware bans are law-abiding citizens,” Bach said. “The pattern of New Jersey gun banners has been very simple: Let’s pass laws that burden the rights of honest people to buy guns versus the conduct of people who disregard the laws.”
Matthew Larosiere, an attorney for the Firearms Policy Coalition, which has sued New Jersey, said New Jersey’s law is “nothing short of an unconstitutional prohibition on the acquisition, possession, transportations, lawful use, and disposition of common firearms—pejoratively labeled ‘assault’ firearms,” according to a complaint filed in federal court.
In an interview, he said the group was looking to stop New Jersey from “locking people in cages for people peacefully having firearms.”
Bach said his group is not opposed to some gun control measures and favors aggressive prosecution for gun crimes.
“We severe advocate punishment of gun criminals,” he said. “We need much more focus on that, instead of using crime as an excuse to place more burdens on law abiding citizens.”
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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