Senate aims to shoot down Christie’s gun permit expansion
UPDATE: The Senate voted 22-17 for the resolution on Monday afternoon. Below is the advance story published ahead of the vote.
State senators are likely to take a first step Monday toward shooting down Gov. Chris Christie’s plan to make more people eligible for gun-carry permits.
Christie announced a series of steps regarding guns permits a few weeks ago, which were welcomed by mostly underwhelmed gun-rights groups who called the changes incremental. One nevertheless raised hackles among Democratic lawmakers, who say it’s inconsistent with state law and want to block it.
That proposal is a rule change through the State Police that allows people to qualify for a permit if they can cite a serious threat, such as working in a dangerous neighborhood, even if they can’t cite a specific threat to their safety that they cannot avoid.
Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, said the state’s regulations are intentionally strict with few exemptions and that Christie’s plan “would greatly loosen New Jersey’s strict gun laws.”
“This is a far lower threshold and a much more generalized standard and would vastly expand access to carry permits,” Weinberg said.
“We cannot stand by as this administration rolls back the carefully crafted rules that govern access to permits to carry a gun in our state,” Weinberg said.
“The reality is New Jersey is not a right-to-carry state at this point,” said Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic. “You can’t get there by governor fiat or administrative fiat.”
Only seven states have restrictive carry laws, and New Jersey’s is the most drastic, said National Rifle Association lobbyist Daren Goens. He called Christie’s plan “a very small step forward” and bemoaned that even it may be on track to be blocked.
“The bottom line is this is another swipe at the beleaguered gun owners in this state,” Goens said.
Goens said gun-carry permits in New Jersey tend to be approved only for celebrities and their bodyguards and other well-connected people; members of law enforcement and the military are exempt.
Goens said that the concern raised that the proposed rule change would allow pizza delivery guys and taxi and Uber drivers who work in cities to start qualifying for gun-carry permits misses the point.
“These arguably would be people that should have a permit because they do face a threat and they do have a justifiable need,” Goens said.
Scott Bach, president of the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, said lawmakers should be blocking what he calls “a tiny, incremental change.”
“The interpretation of the regulations is wildly overstated. It’s actually a very small, incremental improvement,” Bach said. “I can tell you, I’ve received a lot of phone calls and emails from gun owners since that’s been announced complaining that it’s too small a change.”
“Ultimately what this does,” he said of the Senate resolution, “is it blocks the right of those facing serious threats to protect themselves where the government has abandoned its obligation to do so.”
The resolution before the Senate, SCR101, is the first step in a process that allows the Legislature to invalidate rules it deems inconsistent with legislative intent.
If both the Senate and Assembly approve identical resolutions, the administration has 30 days to amend or withdraw its proposal. If it doesn’t, the Senate and Assembly can then adopt a second resolution that prohibits the rule change.
The resolution advanced last week in a 3-2 vote in Senate state government committee, with the three Democrats in favor and the two Republicans opposed.