Permitting Abuses in N.J. Almost Part of History and Tradition (Not Really)

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

New Jersey is one of the crown jewels of the anti-gun progressives. How did this happen? It’s a long history dating back to the Prohibition Era and beyond. Infringements are what Garden Staters have been dealing with for decades upon decades. A news clip provided to me by a colleague serves as a stark reminder that even over 30 years ago the citizens were trying to battle Trenton on guns. What was it all about? Excessive delays.


Recently I’ve focused a good deal on the New Jersey permit-to-carry application process and all the abuses that are going on. The government seems complicit in allowing things like excessive delays to occur, racial bias in denials, and the use of illegal subjective standards to deny applicants.

The New Jersey permit to carry is not the only permit or license that’s needed to exercise the Second Amendment in the Garden State. There are two other "mother-may-I" tickets New Jerseyians need to procure concerning firearms.

A March 1, 1990 “The Courier-News” clipping was sent to me by New Jersey Second Amendment historian Jay Factor. Factor was the named plaintiff in several permit to carry challenges to New Jersey’s “justifiable need” standard.

Several months after the clipping was published, I was singing “Let there be peace on Earth,” in elementary school, and N.J. patriots were battling infringements to their Second Amendment right.

The clipping was a call for plaintiffs.

Plainfield Firearm Permit Applicants

The Coalition of New Jersey Sportsmen is looking for eligible Plainfield residents who have applied for a Firearms Purchaser Identification Card, or Permit to Purchase a Hand Gun, and have not had any response from the Plainfield Police Department for over 30 days. Many residents of Plainfield have been forced to wait up to a full year for approval that the law states shall be granted in 30 days. If you want to help getting action on your Firearm Permit application, you may reach us by filling out and mailing the coupon below, or calling us at the number listed. (This is a free service.) We also need to hear from residents whose paperwork was finally processed and approved after a period of more than 30 days.


In 1990, eight full years prior to the NICS system becoming fully operational, I’m not going to say that “I understand” that there were permit delays, but it wasn’t 2024 was it? The current system, well, the current federal system is fairly instant, like it’s supposed to be. New Jersey’s is a whole other matter.

The issues that were raised in that call for litigants were recently brought up again in a lawsuit filed by the Coalition of New Jersey Firearm Owners, Gun Owners of America, and Gun Owners Foundation. The case, Benton v. Platkin, “involves a challenge to New Jersey’s onerous, unconstitutional, and ahistorical firearm permitting regime, along with the state’s so-called ‘one gun a month’ law.”

New Jersey is a point of contact state. Even prior to NICS, as illustrated by the 1990 call for action, New Jersey had its problems. But post the enactment of NICS, this should have all been settled. The Garden State sits between a firearm purchaser and the FBI when it comes to the background check.

If anyone else did their job as crappily as the N.J. NICS people do their jobs, they’d be in line waiting for government cheese. And if it’s not the people working there, then what?

The NJ NICS Research Center tracks the N.J. NICS delays. Of the data they have recorded, they noted a peak of 5,408 checks being delayed for seven days back in April 2021. More recently in May of this year, 1,644 checks were delayed for 6 days. Their data is astounding.


There’s nothing instant about the N.J. point of contact NICS check. There’s also no excuse why it can’t be actually instant with these fancy things called computers.

The complaint further states:

New Jersey’s scheme applies to both handguns and long guns (i.e., rifles and shotguns), and requires New Jerseyans to obtain different permits depending on the desired type of firearm.

For instance, to acquire a handgun, a person must obtain a 2C:58-3a Permit to Purchase a Handgun requiring, among other things, character references, a background check, payment of a $23 fee, payment of a $25 permit fee, payment of a fee for being fingerprinted, a 2C:58-3f statutory waiting period of up to 30 days to complete the process, another required 2C:58-2a(5) statutory 7-day waiting period, followed by another NICS check (which is not instant) at the point of sale and payment of another $16 fee.

Making matters worse, some New Jersey authorities do not issue these permits timely, further delaying (and thereby infringing) the applicant’s Second Amendment rights. And, once issued, this permit only allows the applicant to purchase a single handgun, and generally expires 90 days after issuance.

To acquire a long gun, 3 a person must obtain a 2C:58-3b Firearms Purchaser Identification Card, which requires its own background check, payment of a fee, a waiting period, and fingerprinting. This permit allows the applicant to purchase long guns without numerical limitation, and is valid for ten years.

To then exercise the right to carry a firearm (“bear arms”) in public, an applicant must obtain a 2C:58-4 Permit to Carry a Handgun, which requires submitting an application attested to by no fewer than four “reputable persons” who have known the applicant for at least three years, paying a $200 application fee, receiving in-person firearm instruction, being fingerprinted, submitting to an interview by government officials, providing any extra information the licensing official demands, providing a list of (registry of) all firearms that the applicant wishes to carry, and of course, submitting to another background check.


It’s obvious that New Jersey’s scheme is full of nothing but blatant infringements. What’s going on in New Jersey would fall squarely in the middle of what the Supreme Court warned us about in footnote #9 of NYSRPA v. Bruen.

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.

Not only does New Jersey make you wait for your firearm related permit and the so-called “instant” background check(s), they also make you pay through the nose for all this. Do the math, it’s ugly.

It’s not comforting at all that over 30 years ago the people of New Jersey were fighting nearly an identical fight to what we are today. What does bring me comfort are Heller, McDonald, Caetano, and Bruen. They’re on our side now.

The fight for New Jersey’s responsible gun owners is far from over. Hopefully 30+ years from now, no one is talking about this article, with the same battle still raging on. By half that time, I fancy New Jersey should be permitless. We can only hope.

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