Shots filed: New Jersey hit with first lawsuits over new carry laws

Shots filed: New Jersey hit with first lawsuits over new carry laws
Ross D. Franklin

When he joined me on Cam & Co earlier this week, Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs executive director Scott Bach promised that a lawsuit challenging the state’s new concealed carry restrictions would be filed before the ink was dry on Gov. Phil Murphy’s signature, and the group has delivered; submitting a complaint to the U.S. District Court in New Jersey on behalf of the organization and seven individual plaintiffs that seeks an injunction blocking enforcement of the law.

In fact, the lawsuit was one of at least two that have been filed in the hours since Murphy put pen to paper. A coalition including the Second Amendment Foundation, Firearms Policy Coalition, the Coalition of New Jersey Firearm Owners, the New Jersey Second Amendment Society, and three individual plaintiffs have filed their own suit in federal court that also seeks injunctive relief against the new laws.

Interestingly, one of the plaintiffs in the SAF/FPC/CNJFO/NJSAS lawsuit was one of the rare individuals who had been able to obtain a carry license under the state’s previous “may issue” regime. As long as the state could allow broad discretion in choosing who could exercise their right to carry, those blessed by the State to do so enjoyed wide latitude. Now that the Supreme Court has instructed the state that a right of the people means just that, however, New Jersey lawmakers have suddenly declared that guys like 72-year old Jeffrey Mueller are a clear and present danger. From page 17 of the complaint, authored by attorney David Jensen:

Plaintiff Muller is one of the very few New Jersey citizens who was able to obtain a permit to a permit prior to Bruen. In January 2010, an out-of-state gang kidnapped Plaintiff Muller and took him to Missouri, where he was able to escape and summons help. Plaintiff Muller was thereafter a key witness in the kidnappers’ prosecution. Notwithstanding this, Plaintiff Muller obtained a permit only after litigating a judge’s denial of his application, which the New Jersey State Police had approved. One of Plaintiff Muller’s attackers remains in prison in New Jersey, and another was released last month (in November 2022).

After Plaintiff Muller obtained his permit to carry in June 2011, and he began carrying a handgun most of the time. The prosecution against Plaintiff Muller’s attackers was ongoing, and he was particularly concerned about protecting himself. In recent years, as time has passed, Plaintiff Muller has carried a gun less than he did during the years following June 2011, but until just now he has continued to carry a handgun on a regular basis.

Among other places, Plaintiff Muller has often carried a handgun while shopping at stores such as ShopRite, Lowe’s and Tractor Supply Company, stopping at gas stations, getting food at delis and restaurants, including restaurants that serve alcohol. Plaintiff Muller has carried a handgun while attending appointments with his physician and dentist. Plaintiff Muller has carried a handgun while walking in parks and while taking his grandchildren to playgrounds. Plaintiff Muller has also carried a handgun while visiting libraries, as well as while attending music shows at public entertainment venues. Finally, Plaintiff Muller has carried a handgun while attending trade shows at casino facilities (i.e. in a conference room, not on the casino floor). While he does not recall carrying a handgun while using public transit, or while visiting a museum or a theater, Plaintiff Muller would want to be able to carry a handgun in any of these places were he to be present there. As a general premise, when Plaintiff Muller carries a handgun, he normally carries it with him throughout the day, unless he is going to a place that prohibits guns, such as a school. Up until now, Plaintiff Mulller has normally carried his handgun in a holster on his person while traveling in car.

All of those actions are now illegal under the New Jersey law signed today, simply because the anti-civil rights Democratic majority in Trenton couldn’t stand the thought of New Jersey residents being able to do the same without having to be kidnapped and taken to another state in order to prove their “need” to carry a firearm. Remember, under the justifiable need standard you could live in the zip code with the highest rate of carjackings or armed robberies in the state and that still wouldn’t be reason enough to grant you permission to exercise your right to bear arms. New Jersey actually did a pretty good job of limiting their “sensitive places.” The problem is that they did a terrible thing by limiting who could carry. Now that they can no longer do that, limiting the where has become their new tactic to engage in what attorney Daniel Schmutter describes in the ANJRPC complaint as “Massive Resistance” to recognizing the right to keep and bear arms; invoking the strategy adopted by several southern Democratic governors in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which led in some cases to the closure of public schools for several years rather than integrate as the Court had ordered.

After New York fired its first salvo at the broadside of Bruen and failed to sink it, New Jersey followed suit.

On December 22, 2022, Governor Murphy signed into law A4769—New Jersey’s own attempt to blatantly defy the United States Supreme Court and its ruling in Bruen. A4769 picks up where “justifiable need” left off. A4769 so comprehensively precludes the lawful carry of handguns in public by ordinary, law-abiding individuals that one would not know, by reading A4769, that the Supreme Court ever decided the Bruen case.

Bruen holds that the Constitution precludes a State from broadly preventing law abiding from carrying a handgun in public. A4769 does exactly that which the Constitution forbids. It does so in several ways. First, like New York’s S51001, A4769 creates an enormous list of places and circumstances that are off limits for carrying a handgun, including in one’s own car and, presumptively, all private property. The effect of this is that there are almost no places in the State of New Jersey, other than one’s own home, where a person can lawfully carry handgun—exactly the state of affairs under “justifiable need” prior to Bruen.

Second, A4769 imposes massive fees increases and the requirement to purchase liability insurance, both calculated to impose a substantial financial burden as an obstacle to exercising the right to bear arms in public.

Third, A4769 creates new and onerous procedures and standards for obtaining a Handgun Carry Permit—all obvious obstacles interposed in the way of exercising the fundamental right to bear arms in public.

I think the key line there is that you wouldn’t know the Supreme Court had ever issued its opinion Bruen by reading the broad strokes of A4769, which is absolutely right. New Jersey’s still trying to deny the right to carry. Same ends, different means, but just as unconstitutional.

Both briefs are quite extensive and very well written, so when you have an hour or so pour yourself a glass of eggnog (or your favorite libation) and settle in for a longish-winter read that delivers powerful rebukes to Murphy and all the other anti-rights officials who approved this blatant attack on a fundamental right.