New Jersey Sued Over Carry Laws

In theory, New Jersey allows for the carrying of a firearm, as long as you have the necessary license to carry. In practice, the right to bear arms is denied to almost every citizen, thanks to laws that empower local police chiefs to deny licenses to anyone that they believe hasn’t demonstrated a “justifiable need.” As of 2015, New Jersey had fewer than 500 active concealed carry licenses, even though there are nearly 9-million residents, and many of those licenses were in the hands of retired judges or prosecutors.

Simply put, the right to bear arms doesn’t exist in New Jersey. It’s a privilege of a chosen few that’s off limits to the average resident, and unfortunately every legal challenge to date has upheld the state’s restrictive licensing laws. The Supreme Court even turned away a challenge to the state’s carry regime earlier this year in a case called Rogers v. Grewal, emboldening gun grabbers like Gov. Phil Murphy.

Now several Second Amendment organizations and two New Jersey residents are launching a fresh challenge to the state’s restrictive carry laws. The Second Amendment Foundation, along with the Firearms Policy Coalition, New Jersey Second Amendment Society and two private citizens, Stanley Bennett and Michael Hucker, are suing several local and state-level law enforcement officials, including Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, over the state’s near-total ban on the bearing of arms in public. 

In a press release, Second Amendment Foundation founder and executive vice president Alan Gottlieb said that, “since the SAF victory in McDonald v. City of Chicago ten years ago, the Second Amendment absolutely applies in New Jersey. We will continue to sue whoever we need to as we restore the Second Amendment one lawsuit at a time.”

“The people of New Jersey have been oppressed by an abusive, authoritarian government for far too long, and we intend to remedy that beginning today,” added FPC President Brandon Combs. “Our nation fought the Revolutionary War to forcefully reject the Crown’s heavy-handed rule and denial of fundamental liberties, including the right to bear arms, but the State has regressively called back to that tyranny as inspiration for its current policies. Governor Murphy, Attorney General Grewal, and other anti-rights government officials may not like that people have the right to carry loaded guns in public, but their opinion doesn’t trump the Constitution. It’s time to bring freedom back home to the Garden State.”

In the lawsuit, which can be read here, both Stanley Bennett and Michael Hucker lay out the steps that they took in order to try to get a carry license, including having to provide multiple character references who were willing to be interviewed by local police.

That provision alone should be enough to get New Jersey’s law tossed as unconstitutional, in my opinion, but the suit details further infringements on the right to bear arms stemming from the state’s “justifiable need” requirement.

Plaintiff Hucker also included with his application a statement of “Justifiable Reason to Carry Handgun” in an effort to satisfy the statutory “justifiable need” standard. His statement provided as follows:

There are several justifiable reasons for my request to apply for a permit to carry a handgun;

Safety: I have a real estate business that often requires me to collect rent in cash and carry cash for certain expenses. This is known by many people and it creates reasonable opportunities for criminals to target me and my wife and children. I also work for a Fortune 100 company and have access to several bank accounts which could reasonably cause me to be a target of kidnapping for extortion or other criminal purposes.

Sport/hobby: I grew up in the Catskills in New York and have some experience with firearms and would like to explore this more. I want to be able to legally carry a handgun for these purposes.

Inheritance: My father has a few guns (including handguns) that he’d like to pass onto me through his estate, but I cannot legally accept them until I have the permit. My father lives in New York State and has had a concealed carry permit for most of his adult life due to his military background. I would like to add that I’ve been a law abiding citizen for all of my 43 years, having respect for my privilege to drive by keeping  within the speed limit and following the rules of the road. I do my best every day to contribute positively to our society and to raise my children the same. I have shown a high level of personal accountability and responsibility in my entire adult life and am looking forward to this process. One of my references ([redacted]) is a New York State trooper who mentioned he would gladly vouch for me. I’m determined to legally exercise my 2nd amendment rights for the reasons listed above.

Michael Hucker was denied his license to carry a few months after his application was dropped off, because he hadn’t articulated a justifiable need to carry a firearm for self defense. As the lawsuit notes, however, even if Hucker had demonstrated some specific and ongoing threat against his life, he could still have been denied because state law allows that “an otherwise completely satisfactory application can be denied for any reason deemed somehow contrary to the interest of the public health, safety, or welfare.”

New Jersey’s insane and unconstitutional gun control laws should have been struck down long ago, but unfortunately they’ve been upheld in two major challenges in years past. Hopefully the third time will be the charm and gun owners find some relief in the federal judiciary against the infringement of their right to bear arms for self-defense.