New Jersey Democrats say they will try to adopt new gun laws comparable to New York's, despite the fact that that state's bill is being challenged in court.
Both Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin and Senate President Nick Scutari, both Democrats, have introduced legislation that they claim will make New Jersey the "toughest in the nation" on concealed-carry regulations.
New Jersey legislative leaders have stated that they anticipate legal challenges if the state passes a new gun-carry bill. The United States Supreme Court ruled in June that certain limits on state gun-carry laws, such as those in New Jersey, were unconstitutional, including the requirement that persons demonstrate a justifiable necessity for carrying a pistol in public. Following the supreme court verdict, New York altered its identical law, which is now being reviewed by courts.
The current proposal from the New Jersey Democrats proposes to conduct more thorough background checks before issuing a permit, prevent permit holders from carrying handguns in some public settings, and impose a new insurance requirement, among other things.
Permit holders would be prohibited from carrying handguns in schools, government buildings, voting sites, bars and restaurants, theaters, athletic arenas, parks, airports, casinos, and childcare facilities under the New Jersey proposal.
"Previously, the implementation of the justifiable need criterion reduced the substantial concerns of misuse and unintentional use inherent in carrying firearms in public." Given the likelihood that a much larger number of people will now be able to carry handguns in public, it is now both necessary and appropriate to clearly identify in the law those sensitive areas where, due to heightened public safety concerns, carrying any weapon, including a handgun, is not permitted. "These bans are founded on common sense principles and historical precedents," the bill's introduction states, acknowledging the changing gun control landscape as a result of the Supreme Court verdict.
Assemblyman Joe Danielsen, one of the bill's authors, feels the new legislation achieves a compromise between public safety and constitutional rights. He stated that while respecting the Second Amendment, the state should be able to encourage "responsible gun ownership, gun safety, gun education, and gun training."
Insurance Requirement Proposal Every private citizen who carries a handgun in public in this State shall maintain liability insurance coverage, under provisions approved by the Commissioner of Banking and Insurance, insuring against loss resulting from liability imposed by law for bodily injury, death, and property damage sustained by any person arising out of the ownership, maintenance, operation, or use of a firearm carried in public, wherein such coverage shall be at least in: (1) an amount or limit of insurance coverage; and (2) an amount or limit of liability insurance coverage.
The law would also expand the number of non-family references who must vouch for concealed carry permit applicants, as well as allow candidates to be disqualified for reasons of "character of temperament" and previous violations of restraining orders and convictions.
The law proposed by the Democrats would also compel handgun owners to carry liability insurance to reimburse victims of an accidental discharge. Failure to carry insurance would result in the cancellation of a handgun permit. (For statutory language on insurance, see the sidebar.)
Property owners would also have to opt in to allow people to carry on their property, and concealed-carry permittees would have to go through safety training, including a gun range qualification.
Republican Senator Ed Durr slammed the most recent Democratic proposal.
"Defending public safety also entails protecting the individual right to self-defense," Durr said. "However, Democrats use every chance to restrict people from protecting themselves."
"Let's be honest. Criminals, not law-abiding citizens with rights, are the issue. Before they kidnap a family or shoot up a neighborhood, the bad guys aren't going to go out and acquire gun insurance."
Democrats believe their strategy will improve public safety. They believe that increasing handgun carrying poses safety hazards, citing a Johns Hopkins research that found the estimated average incidence of officer-involved shootings climbed by 12.9 percent in 10 states that lifted limits on people carrying concealed guns in public between 2014 and 2020.
"This measure is intended to make New Jersey safer in response to the United States Supreme Court's Bruen opinion, which, if left unchecked, would surely impede public safety for our state's more than nine million citizens," stated Speaker Coughlin.
According to the law, the Supreme Court judgment recognizes that carrying weapons in sensitive areas can be "prohibited consistent with the Second Amendment."
The Supreme Court
In a 6-3 decision in June, the United States Supreme Court overturned a New York statute that required residents to demonstrate a specific necessity to carry a pistol in public. It was the first decision to find that the Second Amendment safeguards gun rights outside the house.
New York and New Jersey, along with California, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Hawaii, were among a handful of states with laws that strictly limited who might carry guns and when, and that gave municipal officials extensive power to deny licenses to carry a pistol in public. Several states have amended their rules, but they are now being challenged in court by gun rights supporters.
A federal district court in Syracuse ruled last week that certain elements of New York's updated gun law were unconstitutional and halted their execution. A federal appeals court this week permitted New York to continue enforcing the new gun law while it reviews the lower court verdict and its challenges to several portions.
New York's new concealed carry permit statute requires applicants to complete classroom and live-fire training. It also prevents most people from taking firearms into schools, churches, subways, theaters, and amusement parks, among other "sensitive" locations designated by authorities.
Republicans in New Jersey have introduced their own gun legislation. Durr submitted five gun rights measures in May, prior to the Supreme Court decision, as part of a 15-bill package to "promote safe, responsible firearm ownership for law-abiding individuals."
Durr, who said he decided to run for office after being denied a concealed carry permit despite having a clean record, has proposed legislation that would allow select people to carry a pistol on private land unless the property owner expressly prohibits it. His bill would also repeal the statutory legitimate need requirement, which the Supreme Court effectively nullified.
Other gun bills introduced by Durr in May would allow military personnel to carry a firearm at all times, repeal the "Extreme Risk Protective Order Act of 2018," which allows courts to seize legally owned firearms, eliminate capacity limits for ammunition magazines, and eliminate the 30-day waiting period between handgun purchases.
"These policies, and the ten more I intend to introduce, benefit residents who do not violate state laws," Durr stated at the time. "I'm fighting for the right to self-defense." Trenton must stop punishing law-abiding individuals for the irresponsible, life-threatening activities of criminals.
Democrats have also proposed additional gun legislation. Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation in July requiring training for those seeking firearms purchaser identification cards and permits, as well as requiring firearm retailers to sell microstamping-enabled firearms as they become available, and downgrading certain crimes related to firearm manufacturing from third to second degree.