Justice Clarence Thomas’ opinion in NYSPRA v. Bruen was pretty clear when it came to “may issue” states trying to get around the Court’s ruling by declaring broad swathes of the public sphere “sensitive places” off-limits to concealed carry; it’s not going to work. The majority opinion notes that “sensitive places” cannot broadly encompass most of the places where law-abiding citizens may want to bear arms in self-defense, and instead suggests that these places must be “exceptional” in nature, because we don’t have a history or tradition of “broadly prohibiting the public carry of commonly used firearms for self-defense.” Bans on carrying firearms in courthouses, government buildings, and even polling places may pass constitutional muster, according to Thomas, but again, those places are going to be the exception rather than the rule.
Not surprisingly, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has given Thomas and the rest of the Court the middle finger in his response to the Bruen decision, calling on legislators to pass sweeping new restrictions on where concealed carry holders can lawfully bear arms and utterly ignoring what SCOTUS had to say about “sensitive places”.
The governor wants to expand New Jersey’s gun-free zones to include locations such as hospitals, public transit, bars and restaurants.
Murphy signed an executive order Friday that directs all state departments and agencies to review statutes, rules and regulations to determine where New Jersey can limit firearms. The governor also intends to work with the state Legislature on expanding the number of places where people cannot carry guns.
Places up for consideration include the following, according to Murphy:
- High-density locations, including stadiums and arenas, amusement parks, bars and restaurants where alcohol is served and public transit.
- Places with “inherently vulnerable populations,” such as day care and child care facilities, hospitals and other health care centers, long-term care facilities and nursing homes.
- Locations of First Amendment-protected activities, such as anywhere governmental bodies may meet, polling places, courthouses and police stations and places where demonstrations, protests or licensed gatherings may occur
I suspect the courts might go along with labeling a couple of these places as “sensitive”, including stadiums and amusement parks along with some government buildings, but blanket bans on lawful carrying in restaurants, public transit, and any place where a protest, demonstration, or licensed gathering “may” occur isn’t going to fly. Private property owners are free to declare their businesses gun-free zones if they want, but based on the Bruen decision the government is tightly limited when it comes to labeling spaces in the public sphere “sensitive.”
Then there’s the fact that the governor’s proposal would hit working-class gun owners the hardest. Don’t have a car and have to rely on public transportation? You’re out of luck when it comes to being able to protect yourself. If you can’t carry while you’re on public transportation you also can’t carry once you get off the bus or train, which would mean that many New Jersey residents would be unable to protect themselves on their way to or from work simply because they rely on public transit to get around.
Of course, based on Murphy’s comments its clear that he doesn’t really care about hurting gun owners or what SCOTUS had to say because he still doesn’t view the Second Amendment as a real right.
“A right to carry a concealed weapon is, in actuality, a recipe for tragedy,” Murphy said. “Moreover, it is not in line with our long-standing New Jersey values — values which have always supported the 2nd Amendment through carefully crafted and equally as carefully enforced laws to ensure that guns do not needlessly proliferate in our communities.”
It’s laughable to claim that New Jersey supports the Second Amendment when residents must beg permission to both keep a gun in the home and to carry one in public. New Jersey’s laws start with a presumption that you don’t have the right to keep and bear arms, and unless or until you can convince the authorities otherwise you must be an unarmed citizen or else risk felony charges if found with a gun.
But pay attention to Murphy’s last comment as well. The right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right enjoyed by all law-abiding Americans, and when the New Jersey governor talks about trying to keep guns from “needlessly” proliferating what he’s really talking about is his desire to chill the exercise of a fundamental right and to artificially suppress the number of New Jersey gun owners because he doesn’t think that they should own a gun.
Well, that’s not Phil Murphy’s decision to make, and if lawmakers follow his lead and impose these sweeping new restrictions on where law-abiding residents can carry he’s going to lead New Jersey into a costly and time-consuming fight that’s going to result in a Second Amendment smackdown for the Garden State. With Murphy allegedly thinking about running for president in 2024, though, the governor probably sees a court fight as an opportunity to preen for the cameras and pose for progressives as a stalwart fighter for “common sense” gun controls. It’s free publicity, at least for him. The folks who will really bear the cost of his anti-gun stunt are those law-abiding New Jersey residents who simply want to exercise their right to protect themselves and their loved ones outside the home.