U.S.A. — A federal judge in New Jersey Tuesday granted in part and denied in part a preliminary injunction against tenets of Chapter 131, the state’s controversial new handgun permit law, saying that the statute prevents “law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right to keep and bear arms” which is “plainly unconstitutional.”
New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin quickly filed an appeal.
Chief U.S. District Judge Renee Marie Bumb released a 235-page ruling that details the challenges to New Jersey’s law, adopted in reaction to last year’s Supreme Court ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, which struck down neighboring New York’s similar permitting law. The judge made some scathing observations about the state’s handling of this case.
“Moreover, instead of presenting the compelling historical evidence they promised,” she observes at one point, “the State and the Legislature-Intervenors have spent their resources writing a narrative that says, absent the Court’s indiscriminate approval of the new legislation, “[t]he risk of dangerous and often fatal situations looms large.”…It is rhetoric that is not productive, particularly for this Court’s role here. This Court is painfully aware of the gun violence that has plagued our Nation. But what the State and the Legislature-Intervenors ignore, and what their empirical evidence fails to address, is that this legislation is aimed primarily—not at those who unlawfully possess firearms—but at law-abiding, responsible citizens who satisfy detailed background and training requirements and whom the State seeks to prevent from carrying a firearm in public for self-defense…
“The Constitution leaves the States some measures to combat handgun violence,” Judge Bumb writes near the end. “But what the Second Amendment prohibits the States from doing, and what the State of New Jersey has done here with much of Chapter 131, is to ‘prevent law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right to keep and bear arms.’ That is plainly unconstitutional.”
The case was brought by the Second Amendment Foundation and its partners, including the Coalition of New Jersey Firearm Owners, New Jersey Second Amendment Society, Firearms Policy Coalition and three private citizens, Nicholas Gaudio, Jeffrey Muller and Ronald Koons, the latter for whom the case, Koons v. Platkin, is named. They are represented by attorney David Jensen of Beacon, N.Y.
Judge Bumb’s ruling also applies to a similar challenge of the New Jersey law, filed by the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs (ANJRPC) and several private citizens, Aaron Siegel, Jason Cook, Joseph Deluca, Nicole Cuozzo, Timothy Varga, Christopher Stamos and Kim Henry. In addition to their Second Amendment challenge, the ANJRPC group also alleged First Amendment, Equal Protection and Due Process violations. They are represented by attorney Daniel L. Schmutter at Hartman & Winnicki, in Ridgewood, NJ
As a result, the cases were consolidated for this ruling.
In several places, Judge Bumb is clearly unsympathetic with the state’s efforts in this case. At one point, she writes, “This Court is painfully aware of the gun violence that has plagued our Nation. But what the State and the Legislature-Intervenors ignore, and what their empirical evidence fails to address, is that this legislation is aimed primarily—not at those who unlawfully possess firearms—but at law-abiding, responsible citizens who satisfy detailed background and training requirements and whom the State seeks to prevent from carrying a firearm in public for self-defense.”
At another point, the judge includes a quote from Italian philosopher Cesare Beccaria’s “False Ideas of Utility” in which he states, “Laws that prohibit the carrying of arms are laws of that nature. They disarm only those who are not inclined or determined to commit crimes . . . These laws worsen the plight of the assaulted, but improve those of the assailants. They do not lessen homicides, but increase them, because the confidence of carrying out an assault against the disarmed is greater than against the armed. These laws are not preventive ones, but born out of the fear of crime.”
Judge Bumb then observes, “Those words rang true then. They ring true today. Clearly, the State disagrees with Bruen, but it cannot disobey the Supreme Court by declaring most of New Jersey off limits for law-abiding citizens who have the constitutional right to armed self-defense.”
“Bruen required the State to bring its firearm laws in compliance with the Second Amendment,” Judge Bumb added near the end. “Chapter 131 was the State’s response, but it went too far, becoming the kind of law that Founding Father Thomas Jefferson would have warned against since it ‘disarm[s] only those who are not inclined or determined to commit crimes [and] worsen[s] the plight of the assaulted, but improve[s] those of the assailants.’”
However, Judge Bumb was not entirely critical of the state, noting, “this Court finds that most of Chapter 131’s firearm permitting requirements are consistent with the Second Amendment. This Nation has historically disarmed dangerous individuals or individuals who could endanger the public with a firearm. With some exceptions, Chapter 131’s firearm permitting scheme generally adheres to that historical tradition and aims to keep firearms out of the hands of those who could harm the public.”
Reaction from SAF Tuesday was quick.
“Judge Bumb’s ruling clearly recognizes the issues we raised with New Jersey’s restrictive gun law, and she’s fired a legal shot across the state’s bow,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb. “When New Jersey passed Chapter 131, it did away with the ‘justifiable need’ requirement, but replaced it with an equally egregious ‘sensitive places’ restriction to effectively prohibit carrying a legally-licensed handgun anywhere in the state. That just doesn’t pass the smell test.”
Adam Kraut, SAF’s executive director and a practicing attorney, agreed, stating, “Today’s order granting our preliminary injunction against the State of New Jersey’s anti-carry law reaffirms that the rule of law is alive and well. After the Supreme Court decided Bruen last summer, the State of New Jersey enacted a series of restrictions that were wholly incompatible with the Constitution and disregarded the Supreme Court’s directive. It is unfortunate that a lawsuit was required in order to force the State to respect its residents’ constitutional right to bear arms. We look forward to continuing to litigate these issues in New Jersey, and across the nation, to ensure constitutional rights are not meaningless words on paper.”
About Dave Workman
Dave Workman is a senior editor at TheGunMag.com and Liberty Park Press, author of multiple books on the Right to Keep & Bear Arms, and formerly an NRA-certified firearms instructor.