NJ Sensitive Places Law Takes Another Hit in Court

As the Battle Rages on Over Sensitive Locations for Concealed Carry in NJ, Challengers Secure Major Court Victory

Sensitive Places Law Stopped in New Jersey New Jersey’s legislature went straight to work after last year’s Supreme Court decision striking down New York’s restrictive concealed carry law on Second Amendment grounds. In New York Rifle and Pistol Association vs. Bruen, the court struck down the law that placed unconstitutional restrictions on obtaining a carry license. An applicant had to show good cause to get a permit. New Jersey’s carry law was similar, with its demanding requirement to show the now defunct justifiable need. The new law (A4769) removed some of the restrictions for obtaining a carry permit, instead placing limitations on where a gun owner may carry a handgun and adding new permit application requirements. However, a U.S. District Court just struck down many of the restrictive provisions, keeping only some of the permit provisions and a few location restrictions.

What Were the Main Issues Addressed in the New Law?

The law Governor Murphy signed in December last year restricts guns in places like schools, libraries, airports, courthouses, hospitals, childcare centers, bars, zoos, public parks, restaurants, film sets, medical offices, and beaches, where the public is especially vulnerable to gun violence. The law also prohibits loaded guns in cars. Additionally, the revised law allows homeowners and private establishments, like supermarkets and churches, to refuse anyone entrance with a gun. It also raised gun permit prices and added requirements for gun safety training and liability insurance.

What Parts of the Law were Called into Question?

The law faced challenges in the U.S. District Court in January this year. Gun rights advocates challenged the law restricting gun carrying in sensitive places by bringing lawsuits, claiming that the law’s numerous prohibited sites for guns increased the likelihood of violating it. They also claimed the restrictions hurt women and minorities the most and that the liability insurance requirement is impossible to comply with since such insurance does not exist.

The initial decision came when Judge Renee Marie Bumb temporarily blocked the law’s portion prohibiting people from carrying guns into certain places, stating the prohibition raises constitutional concerns. Back then, she also barred enforcement of the restrictions to carrying on private property without the owner’s consent. She noted depriving legal permit holders of their gun rights “constitutes irreparable harm” that is unconstitutional and, therefore, unenforceable.

Can the State Enforce the Prohibition on Guns in Sensitive Locations in NJ?

Expanding the January decision after singling out the law’s objectionable provisions, Judge Bumb ordered the state to refrain from enforcing some but not all the legal restrictions while multiple legal challenges are pending. Without enforcement, the concealed carry law does not prevent residents from carrying guns into most public places and private places that allow guns on the premises.

What was the Judge’s Reasoning for Invalidating Components of the Law?

In striking down most of the “sensitive places” restrictions as a violation of the Second Amendment, Federal Judge Bumb called out New Jersey officials for unjustifiably assuming, without evidence, that those who legally carry guns in public places increase gun violence. The judge ruled the law’s restrictions on carrying guns in sensitive areas are unconstitutional for taking away the gun rights of law-abiding citizens. She noted that denying law-abiding citizens their means of self-defense is an unconstitutional denial of the right to bear arms and in violation of the Supreme Court’s Bruen decision.

Judge Bumb reprimanded the state’s lawyers, stating they failed to justify each provision of the law with enough historical evidence, as required by Bruen, and clarify vague terms designating prohibited places to carry guns, specifically public transportation hubs and airports, which are ambiguous. Ultimately, the judge ordered a preliminary injunction lifting restrictions to carrying guns within 100 feet of public gathering places, like bars, restaurants, entertainment facilities, and zoos.  However, the court did note that restrictions on carrying guns into childcare facilities, schools, and universities is consistent with the historical tradition of keeping guns from some sensitive locations without infringing on Second Amendment rights.

In addition, the judge struck down the liability insurance mandate, which would take effect in July, the in-person interview requirement for character references for applicants, and the prohibition on loaded guns in vehicles.

What Parts of the Law are Still Enforceable?

The judge did not strike the carry permit requirements for firearms training, which she deemed a reasonable restriction on applicants and consistent with the Second Amendment. She also stated that the nation’s gun laws historically ban dangerous people from having firearms. Thus, New Jersey operates in accordance with historical tradition in keeping guns from dangerous people who would harm the public with weapons. As such, certain persons still cannot obtain carry permits or possess firearms, including convicted felons, domestic violence restraining order defendants, and some others. That was the law before the revised gun law was enacted. She also kept the law’s provision for private property owners and businesses to disallow guns on their property if they so choose.

So What Happens Now?

The governor and Attorney General believe the ruling is unfortunate and misguided, pointing to the recent rise in gun violence and arguing that the decision places more New Jerseyans in danger. The state is appealing Judge Bumb’s order to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. On the other hand, the individuals and organizations who brought the lawsuit, the Second Amendment Foundation, the Firearms Policy Coalition, The Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs, and the Coalition of New Jersey Firearms Owners, celebrated the court’s injunction against enforcing most of the law’s provisions. Several other lawsuits are pending.

The next step is for either side to bring a motion or trial to issue a permanent injunction to overturn what the court deems as unconstitutional parts of the law. However, the Attorney General’s appeal may be where the federal court’s decision is tested. With the law on temporary hold in part, a gun defendant needs a lawyer now more than ever.

Talk to an NJ Gun Lawyer to Determine Your Next Move

Our gun lawyers are continuing to stay abreast of all of the developments on the many changing laws and legal challenges that have emerged in New Jersey in recent months. For now, you may not face charges for carrying a handgun into a public place formerly prohibited by the December 2022 law. However, that may not be true if you were arrested for carrying a firearm without a permit issued by the state of New Jersey. Keep in mind, gun crimes in New Jersey come with more severe penalties than in most states, so you need a forceful advocate to protect your rights and freedom if you face prosecution for an offense involving a weapon. We can assist you with preserving your rights throughout the gun permitting process and defend you in court if you find yourself charged with a firearms-related crime anywhere in the state of NJ. Simply call (201)-614-2474 anytime to speak to an attorney in a free consultation.

For an update on this evolving issue, visit the following: Sensitive Places Law Update: Major Court Ruling Reversed in New Jersey