FPC Launches Lawsuit Challenging NJ's Draconian Carry Law

Don Petersen

“A well regulated militia…” you know, the thing. The thing being the Second Amendment. For countless years, the Second Amendment has been contorted to be presented as some sort of a collective right, or rather privilege. Under progressive and racist polices, a narrative was given going back to before the civil rights movement of the 60’s. Interestingly enough, modern day usurpations of the Second Amendment sprung forth in different areas of the country around the time of the summer of love. By 1968, we all know what happened. New Jersey essentially paved the way for restrictions in 1966.

In 1966, the New Jersey legislature passed An Act Concerning Firearms and Other Dangerous Weapons, which imposed significant regulations on gun buyers and dealers. Two years later, members of Congress frequently cited the Garden State’s tough gun control law as a model for the Gun Control Act of 1968. Although New Jersey’s 1966 firearms law has received little attention from scholars, the battle over gun control in New Jersey marked a significant turning point in the nationwide debate between supporters and opponents of gun control and exposed political fissures that endure today.

By the 70’s, New Jersey’s carry permitting scheme shifted from being similar to “shall issue” to being “may issue” and quickly to “no issue” for the regular subjects of New Jersey. There is a new contender looking to take New Jersey’s Unconstitutional carry law to task. Firearms Policy Coalition recently announced the filing of Francisco v. Cooke.

The lawsuit was filed by New York-based firm Joshpe Mooney Paltzik LLP on behalf of Daniel Francisco, the president of advocacy organization Blue Star Union, a councilman for Englishtown, New Jersey and former Executive Director at Project Veritas, as well as Ori Katzin, the co-owner of a local interior design firm, a former member of the Israeli Defense Forces, and a certified firearms instructor. Katzin alleges in the complaint that he was attacked in an assault caught on camera and documented with police authorities. In spite of their legal eligibility to possess firearms and desire to carry handguns for self-defense, Francisco and Katzin were both denied a permit by New Jersey local police officials and judges, who are named as defendants in the case, along with state officials.

These plaintiffs add to the growing list of citizens that are seeking relief from New Jersey’s carry permit scheme, which is nearly impossible to crack unless you’re politically connected. The heart of the conflict with issuing permits to carry in the Garden States is a provision of the law called “justifiable need”. What’s really thought provoking about the justifiable need standard is that the definition of it was formerly entered into the administrative code without any legislation to back it up. It was not until Governor Phil Murphy came along to sign into the statutes the definition in 2018, a move to kind of “fix history”.

N.J.S.2C:58-4.

Each application form shall be accompanied by a written certification of justifiable need to carry a handgun, which shall be under oath and, in the case of a private citizen, shall specify in detail the urgent necessity for self-protection, as evidenced by specific threats or previous attacks which demonstrate a special danger to the applicant’s life that cannot be avoided by means other than by issuance of a permit to carry a handgun. Where possible, the applicant shall corroborate the existence of any specific threats or previous attacks by reference to reports of the incidents to the appropriate law enforcement agencies.

The law is fundamentally unconstitutional, as it goes against Heller, by creating an interest balance approach to the permitting of a Constitutional right. Francisco and Katzin wish to change that. From the complaint we can learn more about the issue at hand:

10. The State of New Jersey’s laws, regulations, policies, practices, and customs individually and collectively deny millions of individuals who reside in New Jersey, like Francisco and Katzin, FPC’s other members and supporters, and others like them, their fundamental, individual right to bear loaded, operable handguns outside the home through oppressive criminal statutes combined with a carry permit system that requires “justifiable need” and other subjective requirements that regular citizens cannot meet (the “Regulatory Scheme”).1

11. Consequently, because of the Regulatory Scheme and Defendants’ enforcement of it, neither Francisco or Katzin, FPC’s other members and supporters, nor any other ordinary law-abiding adult can exercise their fundamental right to bear arms in New Jersey without being subject to severe criminal sanction.

The entire scheme does not stop at just carry, but simple possession of a handgun. The law only allows people that first obtain a permit to carry before possessing a pistol under 2C:39-5. Every other possession is under exemption to the law. Essentially, Francisco and Katzin are not just seeking to liberate those that wish to carry a firearm for self-defense, one of the core purposes of the Second Amendment per Heller, but will also allow people to keep and bear arms without having to lean on narrowly defined exemptions. Those exemptions are ones which normal citizens may have to explain away if they run slightly afoul of the law as a defendant in an overzealous criminal compliant.

The Katzin/Francisco Prayer for Relief in what they’re seeking hits the high notes, especially:

A declaratory judgment that the State’s requirement of “written certification of justifiable need” is unconstitutional under the Second and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, or alternatively, is unconstitutional to the extent it requires people to state, declare or otherwise show an urgent necessity (or any sort of special or heightened necessity) beyond their desire to exercise their right to armed self-defense;

An order requiring Defendants and their respective employees, officers, and agents, and all those with such powers delegated to them, and all who have notice of the order, to issue a handgun carry permit to Plaintiffs Francisco and Katzin, to similarly situated members of Plaintiff FPC, and to other individuals upon application as long as they are not subject to any of the disabilities set forth in subsection c. of N.J.S.A. § 2C:58-3 and applicable federal laws, and attest or otherwise show familiarity in the safe handling and use of handguns, including at the time of application

I had a chance to catch up with Daniel Francisco, one of the plaintiffs, and this is what he had to say about the inception of the case:

New Jerseyans have been, by all practical means, largely forbidden from carrying handguns by the legal and punitive posture of this tyrannical state. Moreover, they intentionally obfuscate the statutes and make dire the legal consequences for running afoul of our litigious gun laws.

After years of advocacy work experience, we founded our non-profit organization Blue Star Union in 2020. I had for years wanted to liberate the unjust carry statutes in New Jersey. I decided to put my money where my mouth was – and in 2020 I completed the requirements to submit my application for a license to carry a handgun.

I connected with the Firearms Policy Coalition who was leading an effort to challenge the standing laws in New Jersey. Without them – this entire effort would be impossible. We at Blue Star Union are so thankful for their efforts here and across the country, and look forward to working together with this phenomenal advocacy team.

Arguments over the fundamental right to both keep and bear arms was supposed to be put to bed in Heller. Unfortunately, in the time since the opinion was delivered, several problem child states still refuse to read the full opinion, or they just blatantly ignore it. The hard work and dedication from groups like the Firearm Policy Coalition and citizens like Francisco and Katzin, needs to continue until all Unconstitutional laws are completely repealed. Many, myself included, have very high hopes on the outcome of the NYSRPA II case which was granted cert with the Supreme Court. Should there be some sort of a malfunction in that case, room for wiggle, and or needing a specific injury claim from someone from New Jersey, this case is primed to head upwards through the system (New Jersey will never not appeal!) and put an end to New Jersey’s draconian regulations along with a few other cases already filed.