New Jersey Governor Unveils Anti-Gun Agenda

New Jersey’s first-term governor, Phil Murphy, has made good on his vow to launch an anti-firearms agenda.

In mid-February, he held a roundtable meeting in Cherry Hill Township to list his gun-control priorities for the current session of the New Jersey Legislature. Attendees included numerous representatives of control groups like Ceasefire NJ, the Brady Campaign, and Moms Demand Action.

But Scott Bach, executive director of the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs (ANJRPC), assailed the meeting.

“How can they call it a ‘roundtable’ when there was no one to speak for NJ’s one million law-abiding gun owners?” Bach asked in a news release. “They always talk about wanting to have a ‘conversation’ about gun issues—this was more like a monologue.

“They need to focus on severely punishing violent gun criminals instead of banning tools needed by honest citizens to defend themselves.”

Murphy’s agenda includes:

  • A2761—A ban on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, but exempts firearms with .22-caliber tubular magazines from 10 round limitation.
  • A2757—Requires background checks for private gun sales.
  • A2759—Prohibits possession of body armor piercing ammunition. (Bach noted this could include most rifle ammo.)
  • A2760—Ban on guns 50 caliber or greater.

Another bill, A2758, would codify regulations defining “justifiable need to carry a handgun.”

A couple of weeks earlier, Murphy, a Democrat, directed Gurbir Grewal, the AG, to rescind rules adopted nearly a year ago by then-governor Chris Christie, which eased restrictions on concealed-carry licenses.

Christie’s directive added “general threats” to “specific threats” to justify the granting of permits.

Murphy, however, wants only to abide by “justifiable-need” provision in which a person applying for a concealed carry permit must show a specific danger to his or her life.

“Together, we can pass the laws that Gov. Christie vetoed and reclaim our place as a state that acts on facts and common sense,” Murphy told the roundtable. “We must again become a state that values the safety of our residents and communities over the misguided priorities of the gun lobby.”

Bach, however, said renewing the restrictions is “draconian.”

Thus, his group sued Grewal in federal court to fight Murphy’s reversal of Christie’s order. The ANJRPC bills itself as the Garden State’s “oldest, largest, and most effective Second Amendment advocacy organization.”

According to Bach, “The core Second Amendment right of armed self-defense is just as important to an ordinary New Jersey citizen when she is traveling through a dangerous neighborhood as it is when she is safe in her home.”

Specific and General Danger

Murphy has claimed that justifiable need, by itself, provides “stringent standards” for public safety.

Threatening phone messages, texts, or emails can prove the justifiable-need standard if they show “a special danger to the applicant’s life that cannot be avoided by other means,” according to the language of the law.

But last March, Christie, a Republican, added “general” threats to justify licenses to carry. For example, a taxi driver might face such danger in an area where armed thugs are known to flag down cabbies to rob them.

Therefore, Christie’s measure was intended to blend the terms “specific threats” and “general threats,” the latter being a state of danger that affects a community, not just one person.

The ANJRPC aims to regain that footing with its lawsuit, filed Feb. 5 in the U.S. District Court District of New Jersey.

It points to the landmark 2008 Heller decision, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects the individual right to keep and bear arms for self-protection. In so doing, the highest court struck down a District of Columbia law banning the possession of firearms in the home.

“The Supreme Court has said that the states cannot ban people from keeping firearms for self-defense in their homes,” Bach added, “and New Jersey’s restrictions on carrying firearms outside the home will meet the same end.”

Murphy’s Agenda Grows

Murphy’s agenda isn’t just for state government. He has also criticized federal concealed-carry reciprocity legislation currently moving through the U.S. Congress.

If ratified, the bill would compel states to recognize concealed carry permits from other states. The U.S. House of Representatives approved its version of the bill; it now awaits action in the Senate.

“Forcing our state to comply with the standards of other states undermines our law, makes our people less safe, and makes it more difficult for the brave women and men in New Jersey law enforcement to do their jobs safely and effectively,” Murphy said.

But the bill has support from Tom MacArthur, the representative of New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District. The Republican from Toms River co-sponsored the House bill.

“Opponents of this bill,” he said, “will argue that this legislation will enable dangerous people to obtain firearms. This is completely false.

“This bill will allow a law-abiding citizen to carry concealed gun only if they are not federally prohibited from possessing or receiving a firearm. Additionally, this bill has nothing to do with gun purchases. Every person who wants to buy a firearm would still have to go through a thorough federal background check and, in fact, this bill beefs up the Federal Instant Background Check system.”

Check back for updates on Second Amendments issues in New Jersey.

— Bill Miller, contributor, Texas & U.S. Law Shield blog

New Jeresyites, self-defense laws are complex and always changing. Attend one of our “Murphy Alert! NJ Gun Law Survival Courses” to get the most up-to-date information about changes in gun law in your state. Ignorance of the law is not a legal defense.

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