NJ Gov Talks Tough On Guns, But SCOTUS May Have The Last Word

Chris Pedota/The Record via AP, Pool

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is bolstering his gun control bona fides ahead of Election Day in November, but no matter how much he sings the praises of the state’s draconian gun laws, the Supreme Court is getting ready to deal with several cases that could have a huge impact on the Second Amendment rights of residents.

Murphy recently held campaign appearance in which the issues of gun control and the privilege of owning and carrying a gun (don’t dare call it a right in New Jersey) were front and center.

About 200 or so people were in the audience and the governor was joined on the podium by, among others,  Reps. Donald Payne Jr. and Mikie Sherrill, Assemblyman Lou Greenwald, who trekked up from south Jersey, and Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter was killed in the Parkland, Fla. mass shooting in 2018.

More than an outing to show support for gun laws, this was a time to slam Republican candidate Jack Ciattarelli, who has questioned some of the state’s gun regulations.

“We don’t want to go backward on this issue,” said Greenwald. contending that when it comes to guns, Ciattarelli may turn the state into Florida or South Dakota.

Those states are not normally mentioned in the same breath, but both have outspoken Republican governors.

Those following this campaign know that Republicans often criticize Murphy for allegedly wanting to turn New Jersey into California. Now Democrats have their own states to play with.

Murphy joined in on the criticism, saying that Ciattarelli wants to make it easier for people in certain professions to carry concealed weapons. One of those professions is Realtor.

“You would have to tell me what the heck that means,” Murphy said.

Murphy can ask the Republican candidate himself when the pair meet for a debate two weeks from now, but I’ll take a stab at it. New Jersey is one of the handful of states around the country that still have a “may issue” carry law in place, which means that the average citizen can’t obtain a permit to carry regardless of their circumstances. It sounds to me like Ciattarelli believes that working in certain professions that carry an increase risk of violent assault should be seen as “good cause” to receive a permit.

While Ciattarelli isn’t calling for the adoption of a “shall issue” system, the Supreme Court might not leave it up to the next governor or the New Jersey legislature to decide on any changes to the permitting process. The Court will hear oral arguments in a case dealing with New York’s “may issue” laws in November, and when the nine justices gather for their first conference of the fall term on September 27th, they’re set to consider accepting a number of other 2A-related cases, including two lawsuits challenging New Jersey’s carry laws and its ban on so-called large capacity magazines.

In Russell v. New Jersey, attorney Evan Nappen and plaintiff Reb Russell II are asking the Court to decide the following questions:

1. Whether the Second Amendment protects the right to carry arms outside of the home for self-defense.

2. Whether the government may deny lawabiding citizens their exercise of the right to carry a handgun outside of their homes by conditioning the exercise of the right on showings of need.

Russell is substantially similar to the New York case already accepted by SCOTUS, so it’s possible that the Court will keep ahold of this case until the justices have issued their decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, which is expected to come down next May or June.

The second case, known as Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs v. Bruck, takes on New Jersey’s mag ban, which not only made it illegal to purchase a new magazine that can hold more than ten rounds, but made it a crime for those who lawfully purchased a magazine to continue to possess it. Attorney Paul Clement, who’s also representing the NYSPRA in its upcoming Supreme Court fight, is the attorney of record in the ANJRPC litigation, says the case provides SCOTUS with the opportunity to address two serious questions about the New Jersey ban.

1. Whether a blanket, retrospective, and confiscatory law prohibiting ordinary law-abiding citizens from possessing magazines in common use violates the Second Amendment.

2. Whether a law dispossessing citizens without compensation of property that was lawfully acquired and long possessed without incident violates the Takings Clause.

So, while Phil Murphy may be running against Jack Ciattarelli, the biggest threat to the governor’s anti-gun agenda is actually the Supreme Court and not the Republican gubernatorial candidate, who is promising moderate reforms like including a grandfather clause in any new gun control legislation and the aforementioned improved access to carry permits for those in some dangerous professions. Actually, I suppose the biggest threat to Murphy’s agenda is the Constitution itself, especially if the Court grants cert to either of the New Jersey cases its set to consider in just a few weeks.