Murphy making it harder again to get gun-carry permits in NJ
Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration is rescinding the change enacted under Gov. Chris Christie that loosened New Jersey’s restrictions on obtaining a permit to carry a handgun.
Murphy said it’s about common sense and protecting New Jersey’s communities.
“New Jersey cannot and must not become part of the race to the bottom that we’re seeing across the country,” Murphy said. “There are already too many guns on our streets and simply adding more into the equation will not make us or our communities any safer.”
The changes said serious threats qualified a person for a carry permit, even if they weren’t specific. Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said that was counter to two state Supreme Court rulings that found generalized threats are not enough to meet the standard, one dating to 1971.
“For over 20 years in this state, the law and rules for handgun carry permits were clear, and they were consistent. Private citizens wishing to carry a handgun had to show a justifiable need,” Grewal said.
Grewal said he, Murphy and the Legislature opposed making “serious threats” sufficient to qualify, so the Department of Law and Public Safety is going to reopen the rulemaking process to restore the rule, which was changed last March, to the old standard.
“That means urgent necessity and specific threats, not serious threats,” Grewal said. “So let there be no ambiguity.”
Grewal said "private citizens should not be able to carry weapons based on mere generalized fear.”
The new changes to the law will take three to six months to enact.
Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, was on hand for the announcement, made in front of a large audience of Trenton residents and gun-control advocates at the capital city’s YMCA.
“This is New Jersey. It’s not some state that thinks everyone should be carrying a gun and we’re going to be safer if we do that,” said Sweeney, who noted the Legislature “vehemently opposed” the rule change and went to court to fight it last April.
New Jersey has among the nation’s strictest gun laws, but Murphy and Sweeney indicated more would be passed in the months ahead.
Scott Bach, executive director of the New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, slammed Friday’s move to rescind the rule change. He said people need the right to protect themselves outside their homes because the Supreme Court has found the police have to duty to protect individual citizens.
“It is an outrage that the same government that abandons its duty to keep us safe is also working to prevent us from protecting ourselves,” Bach said. “Murphy will have the blood of more innocents like Carol Bowne on his hands.”
Bowne, of Berlin, was awaiting approval of a permit to purchase a handgun when she was fatally stabbed by an ex-boyfriend against whom she had obtained a restraining order in 2015.
“New Jersey is going to have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into legal recognition of the fundamental right to defend yourself outside the home,” Bach said. “My group is more than happy to oblige and will be at the forefront of the movement to restore this constitutional right.”
This may be the first of several actions that the Murphy administration may take to toughen the state's already strict gun laws.
Murphy has said that he wants his attorney general to fight the federal government if a concealed-carry reciprocity bill becomes law.
“The notion that we would have to be subjected to the lowest common denominator is reprehensible,” Murphy said Friday.
Meanwhile, a transition committee report released Friday endorsed legislation to ban the possession of bump stocks, which increases a semiautomatic weapon's rate of fire.
The report also endorsed legislation to create gun violence restraining orders, which would allow cops and relatives to ask a judge to temporarily order someone not to access a gun if they pose an imminent danger to themselves or others.