The New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously ruled January 28 that concealed-carry permit applicants must be provided hearings within 30 days whenever an applicant is denied a permit. The state’s highest court overturned a decision from both a county superior court and an appellate court.
“If the police chief or superintendent denies the application [for a handgun carry permit], the applicant may request a hearing,” wrote Justice Fernandez-Vina, and that “hearing shall be held within 30 days of the filing of the request.”
The state’s high court agreed to hear the case upon receiving a petition from a security guard whose application to carry a concealed handgun was denied by lower courts—a person who wasn’t even given a hearing.
Years earlier, in October 2016, the security guard applied for a permit to carry concealed in his professional capacity. His application included character references and certificates showing his completion of multiple firearms-training courses. His application was initially approved by the Roselle Park police chief, but later denied on February 2, 2017 by a judge and without a hearing.
The judge ruled that the security guard “failed to demonstrate that he has 'a justifiable need to carry a handgun.’” The denied applicant appealed for a hearing unsuccessfully to the Appellate Division before petitioning the state’s highest court to hear the case, which agreed to do so on March 21, 2019.
New Jersey is one of eight “may-issue” states in the country—meaning local government authorities can deny a person their constitutional right to keep and bear arms for any reason they deem appropriate. Currently, concealed carry is only available in the state to those who acquire a New Jersey Permit to Carry a Handgun, issued at the discretion of a municipality’s chief of police or the superintendent of New Jersey State Police.
According to New Jersey Admin. Code 13:54, applicants must be “a person of good character,” who have demonstrated that “at the time of application for the permit he or she is thoroughly familiar with the safe handling and use of handguns; and [h]as demonstrated a justifiable need to carry a handgun.”
Furthermore, a private citizens must “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,” in order to apply for a permit to carry a handgun.
As for employees of “private detective agencies, armored car companies and private security companies,” applicants who fall into this category must prove that, “[i]n the course of performing statutorily authorized duties, the applicant is subject to a substantial threat of serious bodily harm; and [t]hat carrying a handgun by the applicant is necessary to reduce the threat of unjustifiable serious bodily harm to any person.”
“Laws establishing a ‘may-issue’ standard for the acquisition of permits to carry firearms are anathema to the concept of the fundament right to self-defense. Such schemes fail to set clear standards for the issuance or denial of permits. Inevitably, they allow for arbitrary decisions made by government employees as to whether a citizen will be allowed to exercise her or his right to self-defense,” reported the NRA Institute for Legislative Action.