New Jersey was one of nine states that had some form of may-issue laws before the Supreme Court ruling in the Bruen case that struck down a centuries-old law in New York. May-issue means that applicants must pass basic requirements and the issuing authority (county sheriff, police department, etc.) is allowed to use their own discretion in either issuing or denying a permit. Some may-issue states require an applicant to show “good cause” for obtaining a permit, while others require the applicant to show he or she is of suitable character and may require character references to authorize a permit. Now, New York, and 8 other states, are required to issue permits/licenses if the applicant meets the basic requirements set by the state. So what does this mean for New Jersey?
What Did the Laws Look Like Before Bruen?
Before the Supreme Court struck down the centuries-old law in New York, it was next to impossible to obtain a concealed carry license in New Jersey, as well. An applicant would need to show a “justifiable need to carry a handgun” for self-defense. The municipal police departments or New Jersey State Police would then determine if the “justifiable need to carry a handgun” was sufficient enough to warrant a permit to carry a firearm outside the home. Then, applicants must present their applications to a superior court judge for the final approval process. For most applicants, the “justifiable need to carry a handgun” aspect of the process was hardly ever met, leaving many law-abiding citizens without proper means of self-defense.
In addition to the difficulties in obtaining a permit before the ruling, New Jersey gun laws are quite stringent. A Firearms Purchaser Identification (FPID) card and a National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) check conducted through a federally licensed firearms dealer are required to buy a handgun from a private individual. Purchases by New Jersey residents must either be from a state-licensed dealer or a private individual who is a resident of New Jersey. In both dealer purchases and private sales, a copy of the purchase permit is sent to the New Jersey State Police Firearms Investigations Unit. A FPID is also required to purchase handgun ammunition from dealers in the state.
New Jersey’s Response to the Supreme Court Decision
New Jersey Lawmakers were quite unhappy with the Supreme Court’s decision to restore Second Amendment rights to its citizens. Gov. Phil Murphy released a statement saying that “a right-wing majority on the United States Supreme Court has just said that states can no longer decide for ourselves how best to limit the proliferation of firearms in the public sphere” and that “my Administration has been closely reviewing options we believe are still available to us regarding who can carry concealed weapons and where they can carry them.” To counteract the Supreme Court’s ruling, New Jersey passed massive legislation on firearms. The major components are:
- A1765 – Allows Attorney General to bring cause of action for certain public nuisance violations arising from sale or marketing of firearms.
- S1204 – Requires firearms owners who become New Jersey residents to obtain firearm purchaser identification card and register handguns acquired out-of-state.
- S2846 – Upgrades certain crimes related to manufacturing firearms from third degree to second degree.
- S2905– Revises definition of destructive device to include certain .50 caliber rifles.
- A1302 – Regulates sale of handgun ammunition and develops system of electronic reporting of handgun ammunition sales.
- A4370 – Requires training for issuance of firearms purchaser identification card and permit to purchase handgun under certain circumstances; provides that firearms purchaser identification card include photograph and thumb print and remain valid for 10 years.
- A4368 – Requires firearms retailers to sell microstamping-enabled firearms upon determination of availability by AG.
There are two other bills up for consideration in the New Jersey legislature. A 2215, the New Jersey Safe Storage and Firearms Act, and S 3605, a bill to increase the age to buy rifles from 18 to 21, are set for the 2022-2023 legislative session.