A Federal Judge Blocks New Jersey’s Sweeping Restrictions on Public Gun Possession
Last June in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, the Supreme Court held that states may not require gun owners to “demonstrate a special need for self-protection distinguishable from that of the general community” before they can exercise the constitutional right to bear arms. New York legislators responded by eliminating the state’s “proper cause” requirement for carry permits but simultaneously making those permits much less useful by declaring them inoperative in a long list of “sensitive locations.”
That attempted end run around Bruen soon ran into legal trouble, including a temporary restraining order that U.S. District Judge Glenn T. Suddaby issued in October, which was followed by a preliminary injunction in November. Unfazed by those warnings, New Jersey legislators emulated New York’s approach with a bill that Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law last month. The law abolished the state’s “justifiable need” requirement for a carry permit but made it very difficult for permit holders to legally carry handguns outside their homes. Last week that trick predictably provoked a temporary restraining order.
“The State may regulate conduct squarely protected by the Second Amendment only if supported by a historical tradition of firearm regulation,” U.S. District Judge Renée Marie Bumb writes in her January 9 opinion. “Plaintiffs have shown that Defendants will not be able to demonstrate a history of firearm regulation to support any of the challenged provisions.”
New Jersey decreed that permit holders may not carry handguns in 25 categories of “sensitive places.” Violating those rules is a third-degree crime punishable by up to five years in prison.
Three permit holders, joined by the Firearms Policy Coalition and other gun rights groups, challenged the state’s new restrictions in Koons v. Reynolds. Bumb’s opinion deals with four of New Jersey’s gun-free zones: libraries and museums, entertainment facilities, businesses that serve alcohol, and “private property” generally unless the owner has given his express consent or posted a sign indicating that guns are allowed. Bumb also addresses New Jersey’s ban on the transportation of loaded or accessible firearms in private vehicles. She concludes that the state so far has failed to show that any of those rules is “consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation,” the test established by Bruen.
That tradition, the Supreme Court has said, includes “laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings.” But in Bruen, the Court warned against defining “sensitive places” so broadly that they encompass nearly every location where a permit holder might want to carry a handgun for self-defense.
“The historical record yields relatively few 18th- and 19th-century ‘sensitive places’ where weapons were altogether prohibited,” the Court noted, mentioning “legislative assemblies, polling places, and courthouses.” The majority rejected New York’s attempt to cast its “proper cause” requirement as a kind of “sensitive place” regulation. New York argued that the right to bear arms does not apply in “places where people typically congregate and where law-enforcement and other public-safety professionals are presumptively available.”
Article from Reason.com