For the second time in under a month, a federal judge has ruled that New Jersey’s attempt to rebuff the Supreme Court’s ruling in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen is likely unconstitutional.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Renée Marie Bumb issued a second temporary restraining order against “sensitive places” restrictions within New Jersey’s Bruen-response law. The state will now have to allow lawful gun carry in parks, beaches, recreational facilities, libraries, bars, restaurants, private vehicles, and casinos. The order also blocks enforcement of the state’s de facto ban on carrying in publicly-accessible private property; unless the owner indicates no guns are allowed.
“The State may regulate conduct squarely protected by the Second Amendment only if supported by a historical tradition of firearm regulation,” Judge Bumb wrote in her order. “Here, Defendants cannot demonstrate a history of firearm regulation to support these challenged provisions for which they have demonstrated Article III standing. The threat of criminal prosecution for exercising their Second Amendment rights, as the holders of valid permits from the State to conceal carry handguns, constitutes irreparable injury on behalf of Plaintiffs, and neither the State nor the public has an interest in enforcing unconstitutional laws.”
The ruling comes just weeks after Judge Bumb issued another order blocking many of the state’s “sensitive places” restrictions in a separate lawsuit. With multiple rulings in quick succession striking down the heart of its new law, New Jersey’s fight against the Supreme Court’s latest gun-carry ruling is going poorly. New York’s Bruen-response law, which New Jersey’s is modeled after, has also floundered in the courts, calling into question the entire effort to sidestep the Court’s decision.
The Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs (ANJRPC), the gun rights group who first sued the state over the ban back in December, celebrated Monday’s ruling.
“New Jersey’s blatantly unconstitutional carry ban is a big middle finger to the U.S. Supreme Court for the Bruen decision,” Scott Bach, the group’s executive director, told The Reload. “The new law is going down in flames, and this latest TRO proves that when Governor Murphy famously said that the Constitution was ‘above his pay grade,’ he was right.”
New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin (D.) told The Reload he was “disappointed” by the ruling and promised to appeal.
“We are disappointed that the court has undermined important and longstanding protections against firearms violence in our public parks and in casinos,” he said. “Today’s order is bad for public safety and inconsistent with the Second Amendment. But these orders remain temporary, and we look forward to pressing our case, including ultimately on appeal.”
The New Jersey law in question was signed into law late last year. New Jersey requires prospective concealed-carry-permit applicants to pay hundreds of dollars in fees, meet a subjective “good moral character” standard, and obtain gun-carry-liability insurance, even though such a policy does not yet exist and may be illegal.
It contains more than 20 “sensitive places” where licensed carry is forbidden, including schools, government buildings, polling places, bars and restaurants, theaters, sporting arenas, parks, airports, casinos, and childcare facilities. It also mimics New York’s novel requirement banning gun carry on private property unless the owner posts a sign allowing it, reversing the typical standard for private property exemptions.
While many of those restrictions have now been blocked, Judge Bumb carved out several location restrictions that the plaintiffs did not have standing to challenge. Those include the bans on carry in zoos, medical facilities, airports, and movie sets. She also denied the request to block the state’s prohibition on carrying at youth sports events and on playgrounds after finding that they were analogous to schools, where the Supreme Court has previously opined that such restrictions are permissible.
UPDATE 1-31-2023 4:42 PM EASTERN: This piece has been updated to include comment from the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs (ANJRPC).