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New Jersey governor enacts strict gun control measures, faces legal challenges

By Sarah May
|
December 23, 2022

In a defiant reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court's summer ruling that broadened gun-carry rights, Politico reports that New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed a bill Thursday designed to strictly limit where state residents may take their guns, in a move that has already sparked legal action.

The measure, described as among the most stringent anywhere in the United States, transforms the way in which concealed carry permits will be granted in the state and requires those intending to carry handguns in public places to buy liability insurance, the outlet noted.

Murphy explains

It was not 24 hours after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen earlier this year that Murphy proposed the legislation at issue, in which statutory disqualifiers for receiving carry permits were enhanced and the list of prohibited carry locations was expanded, as Fox News reported.

“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 mad this summer to keep New Jersey safe in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's awful decision,” stated Murphy.

The governor continued, “While I strongly disagree with that decision, we must abide by it, and today's law fully respects the Second Amendment while keeping guns out of the wrong hands and preventing them from proliferating in our communities. I am proud to sign this commonsense legislation which prohibits carrying guns in sensitive places, including our daycares, hospitals, libraries, and stadiums.”

Articulating his rationale for the law's passage at a bill signing ceremony, Murphy said, “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?”

“This law ensures that no matter what Washington might throw at us, we will keep doing everything we can to ensure the safety of our citizens,” Murphy added.

NRA fires back

Almost as soon as the ink on Murphy's signature was dry, the National Rifle Association filed suit against the state of New Jersey for violating the Second Amendment rights of its citizens, according to Fox News.

“The anti-gun legislation Gov. Murphy signed today flies directly in the face of June's Supreme Court ruling, NYSRPA v. Bruen – so much so that the NRA sued the state of New Jersey as Murphy signed it,” a representative from the organization told the outlet.

“This new law makes it essentially impossible for a law-abiding citizen to obtain a concealed carry permit. It requires the applicant to have an insurance policy that does not appear to exist yet, and it allows the police chief to subjectively decide who should be granted such a permit based on subjective criteria like 'temperament' and 'character,'” the statement added.

Critiquing other provisions of the New Jersey law, the NRA noted, “Further, the list of locations where carry is prohibited is so great that a permitted person essentially cannot carry anywhere” and asserted that the measure “will not stand up to constitutional scrutiny.”

Murphy, as Politico noted, appeared to anticipate litigation, having said, “We know the gun lobby and its acolytes are already preparing to take us to court to block these commonsense measures. The attorney general and his team are fully prepared to forcefully defend the constitutionality of this bill,” adding, “even if any part of the law is successfully challenged, the rest of it would remain intact and enforceable.”

Partisan gambit

Despite Murphy's claims of confidence in passing the legislation, it is clear that the measure was viewed as extremely contentious among the state's elected representatives.

Not one Republican in the legislature voted to support the law, as Politico noted, which made it successfully out of the state Assembly by a vote of 43-29-1 and the Senate by a margin of 21-16.

Republican State Sen. Anthony Bucco lamented the outcome, saying, “It's a shame the Democratic Majority would not work with Republicans to ensure that the concealed carry of firearms can be managed in a safe, reasonable, and constitutional way,” adding, “[i]t's an overreaching attempt by Democrats to see how far they can go in rolling back the Supreme Court's Bruen decision....”

Racist roots?

While proponents of the new law suggest that it will go a long way toward reducing gun violence in minority-heavy cities such as Trenton, Camden, and Newark, Black gun owners in the state have stepped forward to register their disagreement, as PBS affiliate WHYY notes.

Leon Grauer of the New Jersey Black Gun Owners Association explained that “in cities that have high crime rates, particularly high violent crime rates, just as in the white community, people feel empowered to defend themselves, many people in the Black community feel empowered to have a firearm to defend themselves.”

Offering a counterargument to far-left politicians such as Murphy who claim they are helping at-risk communities by enacting stringent gun laws, Grauer opined, “Historically, ever since slavery, firearms have been a means of self-defense and self-preservation for Black people in America,” suggesting that erecting obstacles to exercising that agency manifests a sort of racism in and of itself.