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New Jersey: Governor Shoots Down Gun Control Legislation


On Wednesday, August 24, 2016, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed a pair of gun control bills the Legislature had passed this session and sent to the Governor’s desk for consideration. In a statement, Christie said he was vetoing the measures because they “further impede a citizen’s Second Amendment right to own a firearm in the state of New Jersey, where restrictions are already among the most unreasonable and onerous in the country.’’

One bill, S2165/A3689, sought to more strictly define the “justifiable need” residents must show to obtain a permit to carry a handgun in New Jersey.

The proposed law would require those applying for a permit would have to provide written certification under oath of the justifiable need to carry a handgun which provides specific details as to “the urgent necessity for self-protection, as evidenced by specific threats or previous attacks which demonstrate a special danger to the applicant’s life that cannot be avoided by means other than by issuance of a permit to carry.”

Christie, who earlier announced regulatory changes to make it easier for resident to get guns, criticized the proposal and said the more strict “justifiable need” standard made it “nearly impossible” for residents to obtain a concealed carry permit.

As it is already under the current standard, in 2014, New Jersey issued only 496 permits according to the New Jersey State Police, out of population of 9 million.

According to Christie’s office, his conditional veto proposed eliminating the “nearly-insurmountable ‘justifiable need’ standard.” He proposes turning the state from a “may-issue” to a “shall-issue” state, requiring the issuance of a carry permit to anyone who is not legally disqualified from possessing a firearm and who can demonstrate an understanding of the safe.

In a statement, Christie said:

“for decades, law-abiding residents of New Jersey have had their Second Amendment right to self-protection burdened by gun laws that are among the most unreasonable in the country. . . . Rather than doubling down on the unreasonable requirements for law-abiding residents of New Jersey to obtain a concealed carry permit, I propose having New Jersey join the 42 other states that have adopted a “shall-issue” standard for approving such applications.”

The second bill Christie vetoed, A1426, would have loosened current state law and require state gun retailers to keep an inventory of smart guns, which can be fired only by authorized users, along with their usual inventory of handguns. His reasoning was that the measure would make the state “inhospitable” to legal gun ownership.

This bill was designed to amend a 2002 New Jersey law that mandated retailers begin selling only smart handguns within three years of them being available anywhere in the country. However, the law has never gone into effect because no guns have been available anywhere that meet the criteria necessary for the requirement to be triggered.

The Governor’s conditional vetoes return the bills back to the Legislature with suggested language that would be acceptable to him. If the Legislature rejects the Governor’s suggested amendments, the bills will die.

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