Judge halts New Jersey’s stricter gun carry law, for now

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Suggesting that New Jersey’s recent concealed carry law infringes on the public’s Second Amendment rights, a federal judge on Monday put a temporary hold on the legislation drafted after the U.S. Supreme Court expanded gun rights last year.

A legal challenge to the new law hinges in part on the argument that it effectively makes much of the state a “sensitive place” where carrying a firearm is barred. The plaintiffs argued the legislation barred carrying on private property as well.

U.S. District Judge Renee Marie Bumb seemed convinced of that argument.

“As Plaintiffs lament, the challenged provisions force a person permitted to carry a firearm in New Jersey to navigate a ‘veritable minefield,’” she wrote. “Their view is a legitimate one. The Court knows of no constitutional right that requires this much guesswork by individuals wanting to exercise such right.”

In her 60-page opinion, Bumb said the plaintiffs hold valid concealed carry permits and were being deprived of their Second Amendment rights, which “constitutes irreparable injury, and neither the State nor the public has an interest in enforcing unconstitutional laws.”

Three members of Second Amendment rights groups who also have carry permits filed the suit soon after Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed the legislation just before Christmas.

Murphy’s office issued a statement Monday criticizing the temporary restraining order as lacking “serious justification.”

The law stemmed directly from the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision that struck down a New York state law requiring people to show proper cause to get a carry license. The ruling affected states with similar laws, including New Jersey, where carry applicants had to show justifiable need to get a permit.

The overhauled New Jersey legislation instituted a number of changes. Among them are a requirement for permitted carriers to have liability insurance and for increased training for a permit. It also entailed a list of places where carrying a firearm would be prohibited, including schools, libraries, bars and sports arenas among other places.

Republicans, who are in the minority in the Legislature and opposed the measure, sounded a vindicated tone.

“The federal judge’s ruling, which validates what we have been saying, is a victory for the 2nd Amendment and the rights of law-abiding citizens to protect themselves both in public and in private. We look forward to the offending provisions of the law being permanently struck down,” Senate Republican Leader Steve Oroho said in a statement.

Democratic Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin called the legislation’s provision’s “common sense” and added in a statement that he was disappointed in the opinion.

Democratic Senate President Nicholas Scutari called the decision a first step in a long process. “We remain confident that the law is constitutional,” he said in an emailed statement.

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