After the historic NYSRPA v. Bruen decision was handed down last June, some jurisdictions went to work subverting Second Amendment rights, regardless of the high court’s order. They enacted Bruen response bills, erecting new roadblocks to lawful concealed carry. New York most famously passed and enacted the “Concealed Carry Improvement Act” and right next door, New Jersey’s lesser-known “carry killer” bill became law in December of 2022.
With the prospect of citizens of the Garden State finally being repatriated with their right to bear arms, all three branches of New Jersey’s government conspired to make legally carrying a firearm as difficult and expensive as possible. Shortly after the law went into effect, however, US District Court Judge Renee Marie Bumb issued a temporary restraining order, and this week she handed down a preliminary injunction blocking important portions of the law.
Two cases — Siegel and Koons — challenged Assemblyman Joe Danielsen’s anti-gun A4769 law. The Siegel case involves several plaintiffs and is spearheaded by the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, with attorney Daniel L. Schmutter at the helm. The Koons case also involves several plaintiffs and is lead by the Second Amendment Foundation, Firearms Policy Coalition, Coalition of New Jersey Firearm Owners, and New Jersey Second Amendment Society, with attorney David Jensen representing them.
The cases were consolidated and both attorneys delivered arguments in March, asking the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey for a preliminary injunction against many of the most restrictive provisions of the carry killer law. This week, Judge Bumb granted their wish.
New Jersey’s law created an extensive list of 25 so-called “sensitive locations” that made it a felony to be in possession of a firearm there. The legislature’s intent was obvious. At the behest of Governor Phil Murphy, they made carrying firearms impractical to the point that Assemblyman Brian Bergen famously noted during a hearing that people would only be able to legally carry a firearm while walking down the street.
Bergen further drew the analogy that if a person was to be walking their dog and went to clean up poop from someone’s lawn — private property — it would be a felony for carrying there without permission. The bill’s primary sponsor, Joe Danielsen – the second biggest jackass in New Jersey politics – noted that a felony charge would be appropriate under such a situation.
In addition to creating the list of no-go zones for carriers, Danielsen’s bill increased the price for pistol purchaser’s permits by more than 10 times, firearms identification cards by 20 times, and the cost of carry permits was tripled. The bill also banned gun ownership for people who received certain voluntary mental health assistance unless they got their records expunged.
The law also mandated that carriers obtain non-existent insurance policies providing up to $300,000.00 in damages, required people keep their firearms unloaded and cased in cars, required in-person interviews for getting a permit, and allowed issuing authority to use things like social media posts against applicants seeking to obtain a permit to carry.
US District Judge Renee Marie Bumb’s opinion this week clocks in at 235 pages and extensively picks apart each argument the state used to support the law. She noted what virtually everyone already knew…that most of the law, as written, is likely to be found unconstitutional in a post-Bruen world.
The preliminary injunction enjoins the law that blocked carry at these locations . . .
- Parks, beaches, recreation facility or area owned or controlled by a State, county or local government unit, or any part of such a place, which is designated as a gun-free zone by the governing authority based on considerations of public safety
- Publicly owned or leased libraries or museums
- Bars or restaurants where alcohol is served, and any other sites or facilities where alcohol is sold for consumption on the premises
- Privately or publicly owned and operated entertainment facilities within this State, including but not limited to a theaters, stadiums, museums, arenas, racetracks or other place where performances, concerts, exhibits, games or contests are held
- Casinos and related facilities, including but not limited to appurtenant hotels, retail premises, restaurant and bar facilities, and entertainment and recreational venues located within the casino property
- Certain “health care facilities”
- Public locations being used for making motion pictures or television images for theatrical, commercial or educational purposes, during the time such location is being used for that purpose
- Private property, including but not limited to residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, institutional or undeveloped property – which is open to the public
- The order further enjoined the requirement that permit to carry holders obtain liability insurance, be subjected to in-person interviews by the police, and the functional firearms in their vehicles prohibition has been lifted.
Judge Bumb was adamant that playgrounds, regardless of location, still remain sensitive areas, and during the arguments in March she strongly stated “no guns in schools.”
On behalf of the Second Amendment Foundation, founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb noted the following about the order:
“Judge Bumb’s ruling clearly recognizes the issues we raised with New Jersey’s restrictive gun law, and she’s fired a legal shot across the state’s bow. When New Jersey passed Chapter 131, it did away with the ‘justifiable need’ requirement, but replaced it with an equally egregious ‘sensitive places’ restriction to effectively prohibit carrying a legally-licensed handgun anywhere in the state. That just doesn’t pass the smell test.”
Adam Kraut, SAF’s executive director and a practicing attorney, agreed and stated:
“[The] order granting our preliminary injunction against the State of New Jersey’s anti-carry law reaffirms that the rule of law is alive and well. After the Supreme Court decided Bruen last summer, the State of New Jersey enacted a series of restrictions that were wholly incompatible with the Constitution and disregarded the Supreme Court’s directive. It is unfortunate that a lawsuit was required in order to force the State to respect its residents’ constitutional right to bear arms. We look forward to continuing to litigate these issues in New Jersey, and across the nation, to ensure constitutional rights are not meaningless words on paper.”
Firearms Policy Coalition Director of Legal Operations Bill Sack spoke about the order as well:
“FPC is thrilled with [the] outcome. New Jersey lawmakers appear intent on continuing to thumb their noses at the mandates of the Constitution but today the Court issued a resounding ‘No.’”
We reached out to David Jensen, the lead attorney on the Koons case about the injunction and he said, “We’re pleased with the result, and we appreciate the Court’s careful and thorough analysis. It was (and still is) tragic that the New Jersey legislature opted to declare war on law-abiding gun owners and the right to bear arms, rather than taking the opportunity to do something constructive.”
Daniel L. Schmutter, the lead attorney for the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs’ Siegel case, told TTAG “We are very pleased that the Court recognizes the extreme degree by which the State is attempting to trample New Jerseyans’ fundamental constitutional rights.” Scott Bach, the Executive Director of ANJRPC, further expanded on Schmutter’s statement and observed . . .
“This represents a devastating blow to Governor Murphy’s law blocking legal self-defense. Instead of interfering with the carry rights of honest citizens, Murphy should instead focus on severely punishing violent criminals. Murphy’s blatantly unconstitutional new carry law will ultimately go down in flames for good.”
There’s a lot to the injunction and much to celebrate here. While this injunction didn’t hit every element on the gun owners’ wish list, it provides a path forward for what burdens must be met to see permanent injunctions against the remaining items being challenged.
The injunction is a huge win for Garden State Second Amendment supporters. While the state of New Jersey has already filed for an appeal, we remain hopeful that the Third Circuit Court won’t stay Bumb’s order. It’s an important step in restoring civil liberties here in the Land of 1000 Diners.
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