Data on N.J. Permit to Carry Applications Shows Excessive Waits

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Last month New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin made a treasure trove of information available via a “Permit to Carry Dashboard.” The dashboard is a tool that shows the number of permits to carry issued in different jurisdictions along with demographic data. The dashboard was lacking crucial data values, however, so I sent in several Open Public Record Act requests – the N.J. equivalent of a FOIA. One  bit of data that I was interested in had to do with permit wait times, so I filed OPRA W215474.


Why the AG decided to put out the data in the dashboard in the first place is unknown, other than conjecture that knowing how many permit holders are in any given area is some sort of a net negative. That of course comes at the heels of Governor Murphy telling everyone 2023 saw the lowest amount of so-called “gun violence” in 15 years. The dashboard has saved many people a lot of work in trying to get data that proves that more guns does equal less crime.

When the legislature filed its 2022 “Bruen response bill,” they made many changes to the law – which were passed and enacted. One such change had to do with the wait times for being issued a permit to carry. The problem with the statute, as well as the former statute, is the language and the determination of the “completeness” of an application.

From 2C:58-4.c. we have the following:

Once the application is deemed complete by the chief police officer or the superintendent, if it is not approved or denied by the chief police officer or the superintendent within 90 days of filing, it shall be deemed to have been approved; provided, however, the chief police officer or the superintendent may, for good cause shown and upon written notification to the applicant, extend by up to an additional 30 days the time period for which the application may be approved or denied. The written notification sent to the applicant shall provide a detailed explanation of the reasons for the extension. An applicant also may agree in writing to an additional extension of time past the 120 day statutory time frame.


Basically, this gives the appearance that there’s a time limit without there actually being a binding limit. Had the legislature had what many would consider proper intentions on setting a time limit, they’d have started the clock from when a packet was submitted and then determined it was complete at that time; with applicants receiving receipts rather than leaving it all up to the wind.

We’re going to go on the assumption that “received date” can be considered synonymous with the start time, regardless of when the chief police officer has blessed the paperwork or not.

In OPRA W215474 I requested the following on March 25, 2024::

Seeking the date of each permit to carry application in the state and date the application was either approved, denied, or withdrawn.

I received a reply from the Attorney General’s office via email, just outside the 7-day limit they had to provide the documentation, on April 4, 2024. They stated they needed an extension on returning the requested information.

The Office of the Attorney General is in receipt of your records requests.  Please be advised an extension of the due date is required as review and processing of your records request has not been completed.  At this time the due date has been extended to April 24th.

On April 24, 2024 at 18:27 EST, I received another response.

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) is in receipt of your request for "the date of each permit to carry application in the state and date the application was either approved, denied, or withdrawn"

In response to your request, you are being provided with an excel sheet that contains the data listing the date each application was received, the date a decision was issued by the law enforcement agency processing the application, and the final outcome of the application. Your request to OAG is hereby closed.


The excel worksheet, linked HERE, has 34,944 data entries on individual permits to carry. The data includes permit to carry applications dating back to February of 2019. While there’s much to learn from the pre-Bruen era on permits to carry, we’re going to only focus on applications made on June 23, 2022 to ones up to February 28, 2024.

It is important to note that some of the longest delays between the submission of an application and a police department's decision were pre-Bruen, with the longest being 1,178 days. That 2019 application finally got a determination in March of 2023 – 9 months post-Bruen. There were two other applications that breached the 1,000-day mark; filed in 2019, with both of them not being decided on until November and July of 2022, respectively.

The data that was received is flawed though. There are application dates that are set in 2027, 2026, 2025, and December of 2024. There are a number of entries that have only a date for when the permit was decided on and no entry for when they were received. And a number of applications show a zero-day wait, but we can't discount those numbers.

Having separated out any individual applications that were decided on in a negative number of dates as well as pre-Bruen applications, I took a close look at the data.

The alleged longest post-Bruen application from submission to decision was 505 days. That individual permit was submitted on 8/9/2022 and approved on 12/27/2023. A close second longest wait time clocked in just under 500 days at 497. 28 applications took between 400 and 500 days to receive a determination. 46 permits were in waiting between 300 and 399 days. There were 340 permits from 200 to 299 days. 2,886 permits were in waiting between 121 and 199 days.


The “ugly” is that 3,301 permit applications exceeded the statutory 120 days. It’s unknown if any “applicant[s] … agree[d] in writing to .. additional extension of time past the 120-day statutory time frame.”

The “bad” is that’s still just around 10% of the applicants being subjected to waits outside the statutory timeline. Those applications, as well as most of the other 30,000+, are suffering what can be considered unreasonable delays.

The “good,” if you want to call it “good,” is that the average wait time is 59.1 days. 59.1 days being the “good” of this data set, is deplorable considering applicants already are supposed to be in the N.J. system and in possession of SBI numbers and most of what remains is the equivalent of a NICS check. That 59.1 days should be much closer to 1 day, but it’s not.

On the flip side of the data, we have some low numbers, if they can be trusted. It’s alleged that 621 applicants had zero days in waiting, 230 applicants had 1 day in waiting, 179 applicants had 2 days in waiting, and 203 applicants had 3 days in waiting. There were an alleged total of 3,352 applications that waited from 0 to 9 days from submission date to decision.

Nearly 10% of permit-to-carry decisions were made within 9 days, finishing at the other end of the bell curve.

The acceptable number of days for a permit to carry applicant to have to wait is zero. Permits are infringements. Having to wait to have them issued are further infringements. If we’re going to have a permitting system in place, Bruen notes:


That said, because any permitting scheme can be put toward abusive ends, we do not rule out constitutional challenges to shall-issue regimes where, for example, lengthy wait times in processing license applications or exorbitant fees deny ordinary citizens their right to public carry. 

Would a few days be “reasonable” to wait for a permit decision? Sure. But anything upwards of a week goes beyond an infringement and the N.J. statute is exactly what Bruen cautioned against, the “abusive ends” of “lengthy wait times.” An applicant can either pass a NICS or they cannot, there isn’t much more to the process than that. Considering most applicants are already in possession of a firearms identification card, the need for a permit to carry in a post-Bruen world is moot. New Jersey and the rest of the “Bruen” states need to realize this, stop playing games, and get on the right side of history.

Below in the embed you can see the reply to OPRA W215474 and HERE you can access the raw spreadsheet the Attorney General's Office supplied me.

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