A federal judge on Monday blocked major portions of New Jersey’s new gun control law, finding that restrictions on where concealed-carry permit holders may carry their firearm in public present “considerable constitutional problems.”
U.S. District Court Judge Renee Marie Bumb, a George W. Bush appointee, issued a temporary restraining order against parts of the law that prohibit guns from being carried in “sensitive locations,” including public libraries, museums, entertainment venues like stadiums, arenas and amusement parks, bars, restaurants where alcohol is served, public parks, beaches, playgrounds, and airports and public transportation hubs.
The judge also blocked the state from enforcing its ban on carrying firearms on private property without the “express consent” of the owner or signage indicating that firearms are allowed, as well as restrictions on carrying guns in a vehicle.
Gun rights groups who filed a lawsuit against the state argued it violates the Second Amendment because it “essentially renders the entire State of New Jersey a ‘sensitive place’ where firearms are prohibited.”
Citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, Bumb found that the challenged provisions of New Jersey’s law deprived the plaintiffs’ constitutional right to carry a handgun for self-defense in public.
“Plaintiffs can no longer exercise this right by carrying their firearms at locations they were accustomed to visiting in their day-to-day lives and in ways law-abiding gun owners routinely do. Additionally, if they were to do so, Plaintiffs would face an ‘imminent’ threat of prosecution, which the State acknowledged at oral argument,” Bumb wrote.
The judge also criticized the state for failing to show how concealed-carry permit holders pose a threat to public safety.
“[A]t oral argument, this Court specifically pressed the State whether it had empirical evidence to suggest that concealed carry permit holders are responsible for gun crimes or an increase in gun crimes in New Jersey, which they cite as justification for the law. However, the State had no such evidence,” the opinion states.
The order was welcomed by gun rights groups challenging the law, including The Firearms Policy Coalition.
“Within seconds of Gov. Murphy signing this insidious bill, FPC Law filed a challenge to its constitutionality,” said FPC Director of Legal Operations Bill Sack. “We are thrilled that the Court has wasted no time in preventing its enforcement and the irreparable constitutional injury that would have otherwise been suffered by our Plaintiffs and all of the peaceable people of New Jersey.”
A spokesman for New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said the governor’s office is “disappointed that a right-wing federal judge, without any serious justification, has chosen to invalidate common sense restrictions around the right to carry a firearm in certain public spaces.
“We are working closely with the Attorney General’s Office to correct this errant decision and to ensure that the law will be reinstated in its entirety,” Murphy spokesman Tyler Jones said in a statement.