A federal judge on Tuesday ruled most of a New Jersey concealed carry law that prevents licensed firearm owners from carrying guns in government buildings and libraries, among other locations, unconstitutional in a victory for gun rights advocates.
Renée Marie Bumb, chief judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, issued a preliminary injunction blocking bill A4769 that declares much of the state is a "sensitive place" where residents who obtain permits to carry firearms can't go armed.
The state was responding to the landmark Supreme Court ruling last year in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, in which the court's conservative majority in a 6-3 decision said a 1911 New York law requiring gun owners to show "proper cause" to gain a concealed carry permit was unconstitutional, and ruled the ability to carry a pistol in public was a constitutional right under the Second Amendment.
"The Second Amendment's right to bear arms in public for self-defense is not a second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights guarantees," Bumb, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote in a 230-page opinion.
"That does not mean, however, that the right is 'unlimited.' The Constitution leaves the states 'some measures' to combat handgun violence. But what the Second Amendment prohibits the states from doing, and what the State of New Jersey has done here with much of [its law] 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 Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs filed a lawsuit Dec. 22 against the law, just hours after Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy signed the legislation.
Bumb issued a temporary restraining order in January to prevent the state from enforcing the law. But her latest ruling keeps in place provisions of the new law tightening firearm permitting requirements, which she said are "consistent with the Second Amendment."
New Jersey Democrat Attorney General Matthew Platkin called Bumb's ruling "devastating for public safety."
"Over and over, the evidence has shown that keeping firearms out of sensitive places will keep our residents safe, and our elected officials passed sensible laws to do exactly that," Platkin said Tuesday in a news release.
"But the court now insists that we are powerless to protect New Jersey residents and proclaims that the Second Amendment requires allowing guns at parks and beaches, in libraries, at public gatherings, in zoos, and even in bars, among other sensitive places. This decision is bad constitutional law and bad for New Jersey.
"We will be appealing immediately."
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