Federal judge blocks more provisions of New Jersey’s concealed carry law

(The Center Square) — A federal judge has blocked sections of New Jersey’s new concealed carry law that prohibits firearms in “sensitive” areas following a legal challenge from gun rights groups.

In the ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Renee Marie Bumb issued a preliminary injunction barring the state from enforcing sections of a law preventing licensed firearm owners from carrying guns in government buildings, libraries, public transportation and daycare centers, among other locations.

“The Constitution leaves the states some measures to combat handgun violence,” she wrote. But what the Second Amendment prohibits the States from doing, and what the state of New Jersey has done here is to prevent law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right to keep and bear arms. That is plainly unconstitutional.”

A lawsuit filed in December by the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs challenged the state’s law, claiming it “flagrantly and intentionally” violates the Second Amendment and a landmark 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision that affirmed a right to carry firearms for personal protection.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed the law in December in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the N.Y. State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen case, which struck down a New York law requiring applicants to show “proper cause” to get a permit to carry a firearm.

The new law also increases the fee for firearm permits from $2 to $25 and tightens requirements to obtain a carry permit by requiring additional training.

In January, Bumb issued a temporary restraining order preventing enforcement of the law based on the legal challenge and later exempted several “sensitive” locations from the requirements.

But Bumb’s latest ruling also keeps in place provisions of the new law tightening firearm permitting requirements, which she said are “consistent with the Second Amendment.”

“This nation has historically disarmed dangerous individuals or those who could endanger the public’s safety if allowed to have a firearm,” she wrote. “The new legislation adheres to that historical tradition because it aims to keep firearms out of the hands of New Jerseyans who could threaten the public’s safety.”

Bumb noted that as part of her review, she conducted “exhaustive research” into the nation’s “history and tradition of regulating firearms.” Her ruling delves into colonial history, quoting former President Thomas Jefferson and other “founding fathers” writings on liberty, public safety and the right to bear arms.

“This court is painfully aware of the gun violence that has plagued our nation,” Bumb wrote. “But what the state and the Legislature-intervenors ignore, and what their empirical evidence fails to address, is that this legislation is aimed primarily — not at those who unlawfully possess firearms — but at law-abiding, responsible citizens who satisfy detailed background and training requirements and whom the state seeks to prevent from carrying a firearm in public for self-defense.”

New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin, whose office is defending the state, ripped the judge’s ruling as “bad constitutional law” and claimed it would be “devastating” for public safety. He said the state would appeal the decision.

“Over and over, the evidence has shown that keeping firearms out of sensitive places will keep our residents safe, and our elected officials passed sensible laws to do exactly that,” the Democrat said in a statement. “But the court now insists that we are powerless to protect New Jersey residents, and proclaims that the Second Amendment requires allowing guns at parks and beaches, in libraries, at public gatherings, in zoos, and even in bars, among other sensitive places.”

But Adam Kraut, executive director of the Second Amendment Foundation, a party to the lawsuit, praised the judge’s ruling, saying it “reaffirms that the rule of law is alive and well.”

“It is unfortunate that a lawsuit was required in order to force the state to respect its residents’ constitutional right to bear arms,” he said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to litigate these issues in New Jersey, and across the nation, to ensure constitutional rights are not meaningless words on paper.”

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