While the fight over New Jersey’s concealed carry laws moves to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the head of the New Jersey Senate is giving gun owners a new bit of legal ammunition in their quest to get rid of the “gun-free zones”, draconian application requirements, and costly fees associated with obtaining a carry license.
In an interview with the New Jersey Globe, Senate President Nicholas Scutari said he still believes the post-Bruen carry restrictions imposed by lawmakers will survive court scrutiny, even though U.S. District Judge Renee Marie Bumb has slapped an injunction on many of the law’s requirements. But if the courts ultimately side against the state, Scutari says lawmakers will simply try again.
“We’re going to let the litigation process move forward,” Scutari said after a Senate voting session. “We took the steps we needed to take. I believe the bill is solid and constitutional, and we’re hoping that as it works through the litigation process, they’ll see it our way.”
Asked what steps the legislature might take if the law is ultimately deemed unconstitutional, Scutari said that would depend on the nature of the ruling itself.
“If it’s struck down, we’ll start over,” he said. “Which might involve looking at the ruling and seeing what other steps we can do that fit within that ruling while still safeguarding New Jerseyans from lots and lots of additional guns legally carried on the street.”
I have bad news for Scutari: any legislation that, by design, attempts to prevent the average citizen from exercising their right to bear arms in self-defense in public settings is going to run afoul of the Bruen decision. There are almost 7,000,000 adults living in New Jersey, and the vast majority of them are not prohibited by law from keeping (or bearing) arms, so the potential pool of concealed carry holders is enormous.
Most of them will never choose to exercise their right to carry, of course, but the end of the state’s “may issue” regime should still result in “lots of lots of additional guns legally carried on the street,” especially given the scarcity of concealed carry holders around the state under those “may issue” laws. Scutari’s admission that the goal of New Jersey lawmakers is to stop as many people as they can from exercising their fundamental right to bear arms is clearly in conflict with what the Supreme Court said in Bruen about the importance of that right:
The constitutional right to bear arms in public for self-defense is not “a second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights guarantees.” The exercise of other constitutional rights does not require individuals to demonstrate to government officers some special need. The Second Amendment right to carry arms in public for self-defense is no different. New York’s proper-cause requirement violates the Fourteenth Amendment by preventing law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right to keep and bear arms in public.
Scutari’s now acknowledging that the entire point of New Jersey’s Bruen response bill is to prevent law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their own right to keep and bear arms in public, and he’s vowing to do it again if the courts strike down the many infringements already in place. I suspect those comments will be popping up again in the near future; this time in court briefs filed by the plaintiffs as more evidence of the legislature’s intent to disregard and disobey the Supreme Court’s edict and to continue to keep New Jersey’s legal gun owners from accessing their first-class Second Amendment rights. I doubt he realizes this but Scutari did gun owners a favor with his attempt to talk tough, and he made defending New Jersey’s unconstitutional statutes even more difficult for acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin going forward.