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Federal judge stops New Jersey gun control law

By Sarah May
|
January 11, 2023

A controversial gun law signed last month by Democrat New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy was partially halted by a federal judge on Monday, as The Hill reports, following a challenge to provisions limiting the places where citizens of the state are permitted to carry firearms.

The decision to impose a temporary restraining order was made by George W. Bush appointee, U.S. District Judge Renee Marie Bumb, and it comes as multiple states have attempted to pass gun regulations in the wake of a summer ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court in which Second Amendment gun-carry rights were broadened.

New Jersey restrictions halted

At issue was a New Jersey law signed by Murphy late last year, which was designed, among other things, to transform the way concealed carry permits would be granted in his state and to require those intending to carry handguns in public places to purchase liability insurance policies, as Politico noted at the time.

Specifically disputed in this case, however, were the law's prohibitions on carrying firearms in places such as museums, libraries, bars and restaurants that sell alcohol, not to mention entertainment venues and private properties at which the owner had not explicitly given authorization.

The statute also purports to prohibit individuals from possessing guns in vehicles unless they remain unloaded and stored in a securely fastened carrying case, according to The Hill.

In halting enforcement of the law, Bumb declared her belief that some of the places in which firearms could not be carried would simply not withstand constitutional scrutiny, given SCOTUS precedent indicating that states could limit where guns can be taken, but only if they do so in the context of historical regulations, as Politico noted.

“Here, Plaintiffs have shown that Defendants will not be able to demonstrate a history of firearm regulation to support any of the challenged provisions,” wrote Bumb in her opinion, and she will determine at a future date whether a preliminary injunction against the provisions will issue pending final resolution of the case.

Reactions pour in

Second Amendment advocates involved in the case were pleased with Bumb's decision, noting that they approached their initial legal challenge to the new law in a highly strategic manner.

Alan Gottlieb of the group leading the legal challenge to the statute said, “We chose wisely in what we were challenging so we could quickly get a temporary restraining order,” Politico noted.

“So instead of challenging the whole law in New Jersey, we challenged the most egregious parts...because we wanted to win and we wanted to win it fast,” Gottlieb added.

A spokesperson from Murphy's office voiced disappointment with the outcome, characterizing it as an “errant” ruling from a “right-wing federal judge.”

Also frustrated by Bumb's opinion was Matt Platkin, New Jersey's attorney general, who said, “We are disappointed by the Court's ruling, which is inconsistent with the Second Amendment and will make New Jerseyans considerably less safe.”

“But this temporary order is just that: temporary. And we look forward to continuing to press our case, including ultimately on appeal,” Platkin added.

Murphy's crusade

The legislation at issue was proposed by Murphy less than a day after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in the case of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen back in June, which was hailed as a significant win for Second Amendment advocates.

“Today's bill signing is the culmination of months of negotiations between this administration and our partners in the legislature, delivering on the promise I made this summer to keep New Jersey safe in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's awful decision,” Murphy said at the time, according to Fox News.

Murphy explained his rationale for the law by asking, “What kind of state do we want to be? Do we want to be like Mississippi or Alabama, whose firearm death rates are nearly five times ours, or do we want to remain a state where people can actually be and feel safe?”

Almost immediately after the bill was signed by Murphy in December, however, the National Rifle Association filed suit, saying that it “flies in the face of June's Supreme Court ruling in NYSRPA v. Bruen” and noted specifically that “the list of locations where carry is prohibited is so great that a permitted person essentially cannot carry anywhere” and therefore could not withstand constitutional review.

At least for now, that assertion has indeed won the day, but it seems certain that court wrangling over all aspects of New Jersey's controversial statute is far from over.