Are anti-2A states slow-walking the right to carry?

It’s been more than three months since the Supreme Court struck down “may issue” carry laws in New York and a handful of other states but many gun owners who’ve applied for their concealed carry licenses post-Bruen are still waiting… and speaking out about the unreasonable delays.

In southern New Jersey, for instance, a group of Second Amendment supporters were protesting outside of the Cape May County courthouse last week, angry about the glacial pace of permit approvals in the wake of the Bruen decision. Just 25 permits (and in some cases less) are being issued every two weeks in the county, with each new permit holder having to report to court to receive their permit (and a lecture) from a judge. Keith Woodrow, who owns the Full Metal Jacket Gun Range in Seaville, was a part of last week’s protest and says the local court system is imposing needless delays on law-abiding citizens who just want to exercise their constitutionally-protected rights.

Woodrow said the Administrative Office of the Courts, in its own directives, says there is no hearing required for the gun carry permit unless there is something questionable in the applicant’s background. He said the court is violating its own directives.
Woodrow said anyone who wants a handgun carry permit must fill out an application and submit it to their local police department, which performs a background check.
“They have 60 days to complete your background check and then they turn it over to Superior Court,” he said.
Woodrow said the courts are turning around and sending the application packet to the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office for another background check.
“They don’t trust that the municipal police departments are doing the background checks correctly. So now, it goes over to Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office, and that’s probably two weeks right there. So then, they turn around and send them back to the court. And then the court just sits on it,” Woodrow complained. “Okay, so the first hearing date is tomorrow (Oct. 7) for Cape May County, and they’re only doing 25 people at a time. There are hundreds of people waiting right now.”

Jill Houck, the trial court administrator for the Superior Court in Cape May and Atlantic counties, disputes Woodward’s characterization of the delays and says that the courts are moving as quickly as they can while still handling all of its other business.

Houck said people also must understand that the courts are still dealing with backlogs and delays caused by Covid. She pointed out the need for justice in routine matters of the court’s operations.
“We have a full criminal docket besides these permits. People are incarcerated who have the presumption of innocence, and they want their cases disposed of,” Houck said. “We are doing these permits in the order they were filed.”
Here’s a thought: if the courts can’t keep up with ensuring that defendants have access to a speedy trial and legal gun owners have access to their Second Amendment rights, then maybe stop treating those legal gun owners as if they were criminals. But forcing law-abiding citizens to forgo their right to bear arms in self-defense because the court system can’t keep up with all of its assigned duties isn’t a viable excuse or justification to infringe on anyone’s civil liberties, which is exactly what’s happening here.
Houck maintains that once the county works through its backlog of applications the process will be much smoother, but declined to say how long that would take. Meanwhile, we’ve seen other jurisdictions from San Francisco to St. Lawrence County, New York take their own sweet time to start issuing concealed carry permits under the “shall issue” system mandated by the Supreme Court, so this isn’t solely a New Jersey problem.
Will we see legal challenges filed against these delays? Possibly. The California Rifle & Pistol Association has said that it’s prepared to litigate against any sheriffs slow-walking their recognition of the right to carry, but one of the biggest challenges to a lawsuit is the fact that cases can take years to wind their way through the court system and applicants will most likely be approved at some point during that time, rendering their complaint moot. We have, however, seen a few lawsuits filed over COVID-related delays that resulted in wins for gun owners; most notably in Philadelphia, where the city agreed to speed up its application process after gun rights groups sued over the COVID-related closure of the city’s Gun Permit Unit.
If counties and states continue to slow-walk the issuance of concealed carry licenses in the weeks ahead, we’ll hopefully see more cases like that filed around the country. A right delayed is a right denied, and there are tens of thousands of Americans who are currently twiddling their thumbs rather than exercising their right to carry thanks to the bureaucratic impediments imposed by anti-gun politicians.