Second Amendment advocates have scored a big win in New Jersey, with U.S. District Judge Renee Marie Bumb granting an injunction against several portions of the legislature’s latest attack on the right to bear arms. In her opinion released on Tuesday (which stretches to more than 200 pages), Bumb found that many of the provisions in the “carry killer” legislation are “aimed primarily—not at those who unlawfully possess firearms—but at law-abiding, responsible citizens who satisfy detailed background and training requirements and whom the State seeks to prevent from carrying a firearm in public for self-defense.”
Our Founding Fathers were aware of the dangers such laws pose. In his Commonplace Book, Thomas Jefferson quoted from Italian philosopher Cesare Beccaria’s work, On Crime and Punishment, where Beccaria discussed the “False Ideas of Utility”: Laws that prohibit the carrying of arms are laws of that nature. They disarm only those who are not inclined or determined to commit crimes . . . These laws worsen the plight of the assaulted, but improve those of the assailants. They do not lessen homicides, but increase them, because the confidence of carrying out an assault against the disarmed is greater than against the armed. These laws are not preventive ones, but born out of the fear of crime.4 Those words rang true then. They ring true today. Clearly, the State disagrees with Bruen, but it cannot disobey the Supreme Court by declaring most of New Jersey off limits for law-abiding citizens who have the constitutional right to armed self-defense.
So what relief did Bumb provide? You can read Bumb’s entire decision for yourself here, but here’s a short list of the “gun-free zones” that Bumb declared off-limits to enforcement:
- all private property unless posted to allow firearms
- public gatherings, demonstrations, or events requiring a government permit
- parks, beaches, recreational areas, and state parks
- public libraries and museums
- bars and restaurants that serve alcohol
- entertainment facilities
- medical offices and ambulatory care facilities
- public film sets
- in vehicles
Few of the “gun-free zones” established by the New Jersey legislature survived Judge Bumb’s scrutiny, but she did allow the prohibition on concealed carry at youth sporting events to remain in effect, arguing that those locations are substantially similar enough to “schools” that they could be deemed a sensitive place off-limits to the lawful gun carrying.
Unfortunately, Bumb was much more amenable to New Jersey’s draconian licensing procedures for concealed carry. Bumb denied injunctive relief against the state’s requirements that applicants provide character references to local police, though she did throw out the requirement that those character references sit down for an in-person interview with the licensing authority. Applicants themselves, however, will still have to trot down to their local police department or courthouse to be interviewed. Bumb also upheld New Jersey’s requirement allowing a licensing authority to request “such other information from the applicant or any other person” that the authority “deems reasonably necessary to conduct the review” of a Carry Permit application, though she did call the statute overly broad and said it “presents potential constitutional problems beyond the Second Amendment and privacy concerns.” In her ruling, Bumb limited the “any other information” requirement solely to “objective evidence on the applicant’s dangerousness and risk to the public safety.” How that will work in practice remains to be seen, but I’m concerned that many jurisdictions in New Jersey will still view this as a green light to impose subjective standards on those applying for a carry license.
Bumb’s opinion wasn’t a 100% win for gun owners, but there is still plenty to celebrate in her ruling. And given that this was a request for a preliminary injunction, plaintiffs can still challenge the portions of New Jersey’s Bruen response bill that Bumb kept in place, though relief isn’t likely to come anytime soon. In fact, we’ll have to see what the Third Circuit Court of Appeals has to say about Bumb’s opinion, because the state of New Jersey will soon be asking that court to stay her ruling and allow the law to be fully enforced while it’s being challenged in court.