Third Circuit splits the baby in ruling on NJ carry laws

Mark Humphrey

Acting New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin is declaring victory after the Third Circuit Court of Appeals allowed many of New Jersey’s “sensitive places” to continue to be off-limits to concealed carry holders late Tuesday, but his celebration is not only premature but a one-sided take on the Third Circuit’s decision.


The 2-1 decision by the Third Circuit panel does indeed allow the state to resume enforcing its prohibition on concealed carry in parks and zoos, libraries and museums, as well as restaurants that serve alcohol and the state’s casinos, but the panel did allow U.S. District Judge Renee Marie Bumb’s injunction to stand in a couple of very important areas.

The default ban on carrying on private property is one of the most egregious violations of the Second Amendment imposed by New Jersey, as is the prohibition on concealed carry holders actually possessing a firearm in their vehicle, and its very good news that the Third Circuit rejected the state’s argument to allow those “sensitive places” to remain off limits to legal gun owners.


If the Third Circuit panel had ruled otherwise New Jersey really would have been able to kill concealed carry almost everywhere in the state, making it a criminal offense to carry in almost every public setting or publicly accessible space. As it is, the Third Circuit has allowed New Jersey to cripple the right to carry by forcing gun owners to leave their firearms locked up and unattended when they’re dining out at most restaurants or the ubiquitous diners across the Garden State, as well as other public settings where there’s generally no dedicated law enforcement presence like public parks and libraries.

Tuesday’s decision was a ruling on Judge Bumb’s injunction, not the actual trial itself (which is scheduled for later this year), so while either side could appeal the Third Circuit ruling to the Supreme Court I’d be surprised if SCOTUS weighed in given that they’ve taken a hands-off approach to similar requests to intervene at an early stage in lawsuits challenging New York’s post-Bruen carry laws and Illinois’ newly imposed ban on “large capacity” magazines and so-called assault weapons. It seems like a majority of the Court is content, at least for now, to let the lower courts try to hash out what places might made off-limits to concealed carry without infringing on the rights of gun owners, and with lawsuits taking on various “sensitive places” in almost every appellate court across the nation we’re likely to see several splits emerge as these cases proceed.


Tuesday’s decision isn’t the best news for gun owners, but it’s not the unqualified victory for anti-gun activists that Platkin makes it out to be either. The Third Circuit seems to have split the baby with its decision, leaving both sides with something they can pin their hopes on going forward. Lawfully carrying a firearm in New Jersey is still going to be a difficult task for the time being, but it will not be an impossibility as the state would like. It’s a small but significant step in the right direction, but gun owners and 2A advocates still have a lot of work to do before the state (and the Third Circuit) treat the Second Amendment as the fundamental right that it is.

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