Bruen Strikes Again

by
posted on May 18, 2023
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angela n. courtesy Flickr

“Clearly, the state disagrees with Bruen, but it cannot disobey the Supreme Court by declaring most of New Jersey off limits for law-abiding citizens who have the constitutional right to armed self-defense,” wrote U.S. District Judge Renée Marie Bumb in a 230-page opinion that blocks much of New Jersey’s new gun-control law.

This federal court ruling blocks a large part of the gun-control package the state of New Jersey passed after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the NRA-backed case New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen last year.

Last December, New Jersey passed A.4769, which basically says that the entire state is a “sensitive place” where even residents who have gone through the onerous process to obtain carry permits can’t go armed. This gun-control law also increased permit fees, declared that social-media posts can be grounds to deny permits, and required gun owners to acquire $300,000 worth of liability insurance. NRA-ILA quickly filed suit, with the NRA’s state affiliate, the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs, as a Plaintiff in the case. 

In January, a court issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the state from enforcing several restrictions. Now, in this 230-page opinion, the court preliminarily enjoined the state from enforcing much of A.4769 until the full legal proceedings are resolved.

In doing so, this court ruling blocks the state from requiring gun owners to get liability insurance. It also blocks a provision that would have required in-person interviews of the character references of those who are seeking to exercise their Second Amendment rights. And it blocks much of the massive expansion of “sensitive place” restrictions on concealed carry.

“This whole law was a bad idea to begin with. It was an angry fist-shaking in response to the Supreme Court’s Bruen decision,” said Scott Bach is executive director of the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs. “If the governor was circumspect, he should be doing some self-examination right now and asking whether there are better ways to affect public policy, like severely punishing violent criminals instead of waging a war on the gun rights of law-abiding, honest citizens who are trained and vetted.”

This ruling does allow the fee hikes for people applying for concealed-carry licenses to stay in place. But the detailed ruling also criticized the state’s lawyers.

“Remarkably,” wrote Judge Bumb, “despite numerous opportunities afforded by this Court to hold evidentiary hearings involving the presentation of evidence, the State called no witnesses. And despite assurances by the State that it would present sufficient historical evidence as required by Bruen to support each aspect of the new legislation, the State failed to do so.”

By passing this unconstitutional gun-control package in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that American citizens’ Second Amendment rights clearly extend outside of their homes, New Jersey was sure to see court challenges.

“As in the years after Brown v. Board of Education, some state legislatures under the sway of anti-civil rights lobbies have engaged in massive resistance to Bruen,” wrote David Kopel, research director at the Independence Institute, about this case.

Legislators in New York, Illinois and in other states have chosen to act as activists, not legislators, as they’ve passed laws in violation of this Supreme Court decision.  

Indeed, in this case, the state of New Jersey didn’t even try to find historical parallels for its anti-Second Amendment package.

“[W]hat 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,” wrote the federal judge.

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