After the Charleston, S.C., church shootings this June, a New Jersey pastor decided to do whatever he could to take preventive, pre-emptive action to protect himself and his congregation—by obtaining a Right-to-Carry permit.
But as Pastor Kevin Bernat of New Life Assembly in Egg Harbor Township told A1F Daily, New Jersey’s gun laws seem intended to keep good, honest, lawful citizens disarmed.
As part of his ministry, Bernat routinely counsels troubled souls—drug addicts, alcoholics, abusers and the abused—in scary sections of dangerous cities like Camden and Newark. Yet he has found that New Jersey does everything imaginable to keep him defenseless.
Because in the latest chapter of New Jersey’s Kafkaesque comitragedy of gun-control insanity, Bernat has learned that the Garden State’s concealed-carry permitting process is a nightmarish paper chase filled with:
- requirements that are contradictory, depending on which police agency you ask;
- laws that are vague, undefined and ultimately undefinable outside a courtroom;
- restrictions that vary depending on the town in which you live;
- delays that can run into months, despite the law requiring the process be completed in 30 days; and
- enough frustration, fear, uncertainty and doubt to make you give up trying before you’ve even begun—which seems to be the laws’ intent right from the beginning.
Worst of all, in the final crowning insult, even if you’re clever enough to answer all the Sphinx’s riddles correctly and lucky enough to be issued a N.J. carry permit—a permit that merely confirms your constitutional right to keep and bear arms—every two years, you’re forced to navigate that same labyrinthine maze, beginning to end, all over again.
How To Access Your God-Given Freedom in 1,000 Easy Steps
When Bernat decided to try to get a Right-to-Carry permit, he went to his local police station, where they gave him his sheaf of paperwork. After he went home, he found that the forms they gave him were for voluntarily registering a gun—not what he needed for a carry permit.If this sounds like Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s On First?” routine, imagine that routine dragging on for months instead of minutes.
“When I called them back for the carry permit paperwork, they said, ‘Oh, we don’t have that. You have to go to the state police website and download the paperwork there,’” Bernat explained. “So I downloaded the form from the state police website, but there are no real instructions on what you need, or what’s required. So I called the state police, and they said, ‘You’ve got to get that from your local police department.’ So I called the local police department, and they said, ‘Yeah, we do have the form.’ When I said, ‘Well, when I was there, the girl told me you didn’t have the form,’ they said, ‘Well, I don’t know why she told you that.’”
If this sounds like Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s On First?” routine, imagine that routine dragging on for months instead of minutes. Because as Bernat explained, long before he ever got to the point of applying for the Right-to-Carry, he had to jump through many prerequisite hoops.
If you want to buy a handgun in New Jersey, first you must obtain a Firearm ID Card (FID), which requires you to be fingerprinted, give consent for a mental health records check, and provide the names of two personal references. But an FID card only permits you to purchase long guns—like shotguns, rifles and even BB guns—not handguns.
Once you get an FID card, then and only then can you apply for a permit to purchase a handgun in New Jersey. Bernat said the whole process took him five to six months the first time he went through it, and about three months last time. Yet it’s only supposed to take 30 days.
Once you get your FID card and permit to purchase a handgun, then you can begin the odyssey of trying to get a Right-to-Carry permit. And the niggling details, as Bernat enumerated them, seem intended to confuse and confound: You’re required to submit duplicate forms, but they must be hand-written copies—photocopies get bounced back. You have to pay your fees with a money order, not with a check. The state police say the money order has to be for $50 but the local police say $20—and if you show up with a $50 money order and tell the local police to “keep the change” out of aggravation, they send you away again (and money orders are non-refundable). If you then come back with a money order for $20—only then do the local police realize that their forms are out of date and you actually need a money order for $50. Lather, rinse, repeat ad nauseam infinitum.
As Bernat summed it up, “I know how they work here: They tell you, ‘You need this, you need that.’ But they don’t tell you everything, and then when you turn it in, and some small detail is wrong, they kick it back. It’s like they just keep stringing you along.”
Pastor Bernat is the son of a policeman and grew up in Pennsylvania, where he owned handguns all his life. To qualify for a Right-to-Carry permit in New Jersey, he had to fire 800 rounds in training. Moreover, he took his training from a certified law enforcement trainer, and qualified in both the daytime and nighttime training disciplines.
Bernat was also told that he had to have a one-time psychological evaluation from a psychologist certified by the state to qualify for a permit. Yet after he had paid $500 for his evaluation, Bernat learned that local police departments had been enjoined by the courts from demanding additional requirements—such as psych evaluations—from Right-to-Carry permit applicants. In other words, another $500 down the drain. “I know how they work here: They tell you, ‘You need this, you need that.’ But they don’t tell you everything …” – Pastor Kevin Bernat
A Frustration Strategy Aimed at Getting You to Give Up
So far, Bernat estimates that his expenses for trying to get a Right-to-Carry permit in New Jersey—including the costs of the psych evaluation, 800 rounds of ammunition, training, paperwork fees, etc.—are in the neighborhood of $1,000.
Indeed, the law seems to be written to achieve that exact objective. Bernat said that most people he asked about concealed-carry permits in Jersey—including current and former law enforcement sources—told him, “Don’t even bother, you’ll be wasting your time.”
As Alexander Roubain of the New Jersey Second Amendment Society told WWOR-TV’s “Chasing News” program, “In a state of about 9 million people, you have 1,600 people that have concealed-carry permits, and those are all judges, politicians, friends of the politicians and judges. The criteria is basically a de facto ban on concealed carry.”
Why? Because even if you jump through all the hoops and over all the hurdles that New Jersey state and local officials erect to try to stop you from even applying for a permit, in the end, they have the discretion to deny permits at whim and at will, if applicants don’t prove to officials’ satisfaction that they have a justifiable “need” to carry.
So most prospective applicants don’t even try.
Likely one key reason, as Bernat explained, is that denial of a Right-to-Carry permit carries future repercussions: “Even former police told me, ‘We don’t even apply because once you apply for a permit, and get turned down—and you are going to get turned down—whenever you go to get another handgun purchase permit, you’re required by law to check the box saying you’ve been turned down for a carry permit. And then it holds up everything while they figure out why you were denied a carry permit. That’s the catch.’”
Use Your Power!
If you want to prevent the tragedy and travesty of New Jersey from becoming the norm nationwide, help fight back by becoming a member of the National Rifle Association of America. The NRA knows how to fight, the NRA knows how to win, and no other gun-rights group in American can claim the successes and clout that the NRA commands. For more information, click here.