Murphy's feigned outrage over concealed carry appeal is about ten days too late

Murphy's feigned outrage over concealed carry appeal is about ten days too late
Chris Pedota/The Record via AP, Pool

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy issued a decidedly odd press release on Thursday decrying a “recent legal filing by the gun lobby” challenging New Jersey’s “carry killer legislation”, declaring himself “furious that the gun lobby” is challenging the laundry list of “sensitive places” where Murphy and his fellow Democrats have banned concealed carry in the Garden State.

“At a time when parents across New Jersey are sending their kids back to school, I am furious that the gun lobby is trying to dismantle our state’s strong gun safety laws by advocating for more guns in playgrounds and youth sports games. These extreme right-wing organizations will not relent until guns are allowed everywhere, especially places with children.

“New Jersey is one of the safest states in the nation in no small part due to our strong gun safety laws, including our longstanding verification procedures that make sure firearms-carriers do not pose a threat to public safety. While greed and fanaticism continue to fuel the gun lobby, public safety will always guide our decisions.

“I am proud that the vast majority of our law restricting concealed carry of firearms in sensitive locations has been upheld by the Third Circuit and am grateful to everyone who worked on that law, including Senate President Scutari and Speaker Coughlin, for helping to keep our residents safe. We will remain steadfast in defending our nation-leading gun safety laws and maintaining our position as a national leader in protecting families from gun violence.”

Now, it’s not odd that Murphy would bemoan any attempt to undo the unconstitutional gun control laws enacted by the legislature and a stroke of his pen. What’s weird is that the “recent” legal filing he’s complaining about isn’t all that recent. And as the Firearms Policy Coalition noted in a tweet highlighting Murphy’s strange timing, the Third Circuit hasn’t really upheld the “sensitive places” in question because they won’t take up the case until next month. Instead, the Third Circuit granted an emergency stay requested by the New Jersey Attorney General after a U.S. District Court judge ruled that many of the states “sensitive places” are likely to be found unconstitutional.

So what jarred Murphy into haranguing his public relations staff into issuing a press release ASAP? It looks to me that the governor is following the news cycle, not the latest legal filings, because just a few hours before his press office blasted out the governor’s comments, published a story about the not-so-recent filings in Koons v. Platkin with a headline that focused on the playgrounds and youth sporting events that are deemed off-limits to concealed carry holders.

The fight began last year, when a U.S. Supreme Court ruling invalidated strict permitting laws in states like New York and New Jersey, finding they violated the Second Amendment.

Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, signed a package of bills meant to comply with the high court’s ruling, but a coalition of gun rights advocates sued, saying the new laws still trampled constitutional rights.

A U.S. District Court judge sided with the gun groups, finding New Jersey’s leaders had defied 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 where are concealed handguns allowed in New Jersey?

It’s a moving target.

Right now, an emergency stay means they’re banned from most state-designated “sensitive places” as a federal appeals court weighs arguments from both sides.

The bill Murphy signed prohibited firearms from so many locations that even sponsors of the legislation struggled to list the places they’d be permitted. An initial court ruling threw out many of those restrictions, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit allowed enforcement through the emergency stay.

Now the gun groups — seeing a rare opportunity to reshape Garden State gun culture in the federal courts — are trying to reclaim their right to carry at an array of public places, including playgrounds and youth sporting events, medical offices and public lands used for hunting and fishing.

“The district court correctly recognized the error of the state’s ways as to many of its sweeping new permitting and sensitive-places restrictions,” lawyers for the coalition wrote in a Sept. 18 filing. “The court’s only mistake was in not going further.”

You can read the plaintiffs’ reply brief in full (and without interpretation from an anti-gun judge or media entity) here. If you do, you’ll be one step ahead of the governor, because it’s pretty clear that Murph isn’t paying that much attention to the latest legal developments… only the headlines from the local press outlets.

I would be remiss if I didn’t address the anti-gun governor’s ridiculous assertion that “greed and fanaticism” are behind the push to get rid of New Jersey’s ridiculous “gun-free zones” while I’ve got the chance. No one is getting rich from taking on New Jersey’s unconstitutional “gun-free zones”, especially when we’ve seen courts reduce the legal fees awarded to attorneys who successfully challenge gun control laws in cases like New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen. Are the plaintiffs in Koons, Seigel, and the other lawsuits aimed at New Jersey’s concealed carry restrictions “fanatics”? I’ve never met them, so I don’t know for sure, but I’d like to think that they’re fanatical about clawing back a fundamental civil liberty that’s been unceremoniously stripped from them through the legislature’s heavy-handed infringements.

The simple fact is that parents who take their kids to parks and playgrounds or sit in the stands at youth sporting events have every right and reason to want to protect their loved ones and themselves. New Jersey has seen murders committed at youth sporting events, and sadly, even playgrounds in the state are not immune from crime. In 2019 a five-year-old girl was abducted from a playground while her mother was just 30 yards away, and given that police aren’t regularly stationed at parks or playgrounds around the state, why shouldn’t parents be permitted to lawfully carry in those places?

As my colleague Tom Knighton discussed earlier today, there’s another good reason for gun owners to carry in these locations; it allows them to maintain control of their firearm instead of being forced to leave it behind in their vehicle. At a time when car break-ins and thefts of firearms are on the rise across the country you’d think Murphy would want gun owners to have their lawfully-carried firearms under their control, but the truth is that Murphy simply doesn’t want them carrying at all, and the more “sensitive places” in New Jersey, the more carry licensees will reluctantly decide to leave their guns at home.

You don’t have to be a fanatic to see the inherent tension between Murphy’s ideology and our Second Amendment rights, nor to take on these infringements. All it takes is recognizing that the right to keep and bear arms is a real right, and one just as fundamentally important as our freedom of speech, freedom to worship (or not) as we choose, and our right to be secure in our persons and property without fear of unreasonable searches and seizures. I don’t think that Phil Murphy will ever reach that basic level of civic enlightenment, but that’s okay. We’ll keep fighting him and his fellow prohibitionists until our rights are secured once and for all.