🏛 U.S. judge puts partial pause on some of NJ’s newer gun laws

🏛 The order strikes down many ‘sensitive places’ as unconstitutional

🏛 NJ attorney general calls the order 'devastating for public safety’

TRENTON — New Jersey’s latest round of tougher gun laws faced a setback on May 16, as a federal judge blocked the state from enforcing much of its ban on concealed carry in "sensitive" public places.

U.S. District Judge Renee Maria Bumb, appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush, found the state’s attempt to restrict legal gun owners from carrying firearms at roughly two dozen public spaces to be unconstitutional — for all but playgrounds and youth sporting events, on the grounds that it interfered with Second Amendment rights.

“The State has failed to offer any evidence that law-abiding responsible citizens who carry firearms in public for self-defense are responsible for an increase in gun violence,” Bumb said in her lengthy opinion, which accompanied a partial preliminary injunction order.

"This has taken some time and the State’s effort to hurry this Court along is most unfortunate," Bumb said in the 235-page opinion.

“This Court is painfully aware of the gun violence that has plagued our Nation. But what the State and the Legislators Intervenors ignore, and what their empirical evidence fails to address, is that this legislation is aimed primarily—not at those who unlawfully possess firearms — but at law-abiding, responsible citizens who satisfy detailed background and training requirements and whom the State seeks to prevent from carrying a firearm in public for self-defense,” Bumb said.

“Clearly the state disagrees with Bruen,” but it “cannot disobey the Supreme Court by declaring most of New Jersey off limits for law-abiding citizens who have the constitutional right to armed self-defense.”

“Our Founding Fathers were aware of the dangers such laws pose,” she added.

State Attorney General Matthew Platkin called the judge’s order “devastating for public safety.”

“Over and over, the evidence has shown that keeping firearms out of sensitive places will keep our residents safe, and our elected officials passed sensible laws to do exactly that. But the court now insists that we are powerless to protect New Jersey residents, and proclaims that the Second Amendment requires allowing guns at parks and beaches, in libraries, at public gatherings, in zoos, and even in bars, among other sensitive places.” Platkin continued.

“This decision is bad constitutional law and bad for New Jersey. We will be appealing immediately,” the attorney general said the same day that the order was issued.

On Monday, the state filed an emergency motion for stay, pending appeal, while also simultaneously moving to expedite the underlying appeal.

“A stay is urgently needed. The preliminary injunction prevents the State from enforcing its democratically-enacted laws. It bars the State from protecting residents and law enforcement from gun violence in sensitive places. It empowers individuals to carry firearms onto their neighbors’ porches and into local businesses without seeking the owners’ consent. And it risks significant confusion on the ground,” according to the Monday court filing by the state Attorney General’s Office,

It added “When federal courts in New York issued near-identical preliminary injunctions against near-identical provisions, the Second Circuit issued stays pending appeal.”

U.S. District Judge Renée Marie Bumb opinion issued May 16, 2023 (Google Maps, Canva)
U.S. District Judge Renée Marie Bumb opinion issued May 16, 2023 (Google Maps, Canva)

Is this a victory for gun rights advocates?

It was not a clean sweep for those challenging the state's newest restrictions on gun owners enacted in December, in what was referred to as Chapter 131.

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June 2022 made it easier for people to get a concealed-carry permit.

The judge found the state’s firearm fees to be fine, as well as the exemptions for judges and prosecutors amid gun laws for private citizens.

The judge was compelled to agree with the state’s restriction on what type and how many firearms can be carried at one time by hunters.

However, the state's firearm ban in vehicles, as written, was found to be unconstitutional.

Bumb said that an argument delivered on behalf of the state by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin was telling as it “is best summed up as an ‘all guns are bad one’. This argument is problematic,” the judge continued.

The preliminary injunction also was granted against the state's new insurance mandate for gun permit owners, to show proof of minimum liability coverage of $300,000.

Bumb said that since the restrictions went into effect, “Plaintiffs have resorted to leaving their handguns and Second Amendment rights at home because they may otherwise face significant criminal sanctions and jail time."

NJ Attorney General Matthew Platkin on federal judge's preliminary injunction (NJ OAG) NJ gun laws
NJ Attorney General Matthew Platkin on federal judge's preliminary injunction (NJ OAG)

Gun rights advocates nationwide cheer ruling on NJ gun permit laws

“Judge Bumb’s ruling clearly recognizes the issues we raised with New Jersey’s restrictive gun law, and she’s fired a legal shot across the state’s bow,” according to Second Amendment Foundation founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb in a written reaction.

“When New Jersey passed Chapter 131, it did away with the ‘justifiable need’ requirement, but replaced it with an equally egregious ‘sensitive places’ restriction to effectively prohibit carrying a legally-licensed handgun anywhere in the state. That just doesn’t pass the smell test.”

While Bumb also included medical offices and ambulatory care facilities in her preliminary injunction, she did not include other types of health care facilities.

Platkin urges NJ residents, businesses to set own limits on carried firearms

New Jersey’s attorney general urged private residents and businesses to exercise their own rights over whether to allow gun owners to carry firearms on their premises.

“There is one silver lining: Individuals can still control whether and when to allow firearms on their property. No one may carry a firearm inside someone else’s home, or into a business closed to the public, without the owner’s express permission.”

“And for everyone else – for retail establishments and other businesses open to the public – the owners can still make clear that carrying firearms is not welcome on their premises, just as homeowners can make clear guns are unwelcome on their lawns and driveways. Nothing in today’s opinion changes that important reality.”

Watch New Jersey 101.5's Town Hall on guns

Alan Gottlieb, Founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, appeared in a video interview several years ago with MK Outdoor Journal, as posted to Youtube:

Erin Vogt is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at erin.vogt@townsquaremedia.com

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