Pro-Second Amendment Organizations in New Jersey File Federal Lawsuit Against Unconstitutional Carry Laws

On November 3, 2020, three pro-Second Amendment groups filed a lawsuit that disputed the constitutionality of various carry laws in the state of New Jersey.

According to Dave Workman of AmmoLand, this case “could have far-reaching ramifications.” The Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC), New Jersey Second Amendment Society (NJ2AS), and two private citizens identified as Stanley Bennett and Michael Hucker were the parties responsible for filing the case Bennett v. Davis. This legal petition was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. The plaintiffs are receiving legal representation from attorneys David Jensen, Raymond M. DiGuiseppe, and Adam Kraut. The defendants in this case are Clayton Police Chief Andrew Davis, Guttenberg Public Safety Director Robert D. White, Guttenberg Police Officer-in-Charge Juan Barrera, State Police Supt. Patrick J. Callahan, and Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal.

In order to acquire a carry permit, the lawsuit detailed, “a private citizen must apply to either their chief police officer or to the state police superintendent, depending upon their circumstances, as required” in accordance to the law. The entire complaint can be found here.

The legal complaint, which is 47 pages long, breaks down the Garden State’s “justifiable need” requirement. It contends that this provision “conditioning the issuance of a permit to carry a handgun on proof of an ‘urgent necessity for self-protection, as evidenced by specific threats or previous attacks which demonstrate a special danger to the applicant’s life that cannot be avoided by means other than by issuance of a permit to carry a handgun,’ N.J. statutorily disqualifies all ordinary law-abiding citizens, preventing them from obtaining a Carry Permit.”

The federal lawsuit then argues that, “The State of New Jersey’s laws, regulations, policies, practices, and customs individually and collectively deny millions of individuals who reside in New Jersey, like Plaintiffs, their members and supporters, and others like them, their fundamental, individual right to bear loaded, operable handguns outside the home through oppressive criminal statutes combined with a Carry Permit system that requires ‘justifiable need’ and other subjective requirements that regular citizens cannot meet (the ‘Regulatory Scheme’).”

“The right to bear arms must be available to all citizens, not just a privileged few,” declared SAF Founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb following the filing of the lawsuit. “Like other rights protected by the Constitution, that right is not limited to the confines of one’s home. Ever since the SAF victory in McDonald v. City of Chicago ten years ago, the Second Amendment absolutely applies in New Jersey. We will continue to sue whoever we need to as we restore the Second Amendment one lawsuit at a time.”

FPC President Brandon Combs also had choice words for New Jersey’s draconian gun control regime.

“The people of New Jersey have been oppressed by an abusive, authoritarian government for far too long, and we intend to remedy that beginning today,” Combs said. “Our nation fought the Revolutionary War to forcefully reject the Crown’s heavy-handed rule and denial of fundamental liberties, including the right to bear arms, but the State has regressively called back to that tyranny as inspiration for its current policies. Governor Murphy, Attorney General Grewal, and other anti-rights government officials may not like that people have the right to carry loaded guns in public, but their opinion doesn’t trump the Constitution. It’s time to bring freedom back home to the Garden State.”

NJ2AS President Alexander Roubian described New York’s gun control laws as “draconian.”

“New Jersey’s…prohibition on the right to protect yourself with a firearm, the same way politicians and judges protect themselves, has endangered lives and created countless victims,” Roubian claimed. “New Jersey residents want nothing more than to protect themselves and their loved ones, as they are entitled to. We are confident the courts will agree and proud to join forces with the nation’s leading organizations, the Second Amendment Foundation and Firearm Policy Coalition, to help take this battle to the highest court.”

“This case is fundamentally a simple but important one,” stated attorney DiGuiseppe. “In New Jersey today, the right to carry loaded handguns in public for all lawful purposes, including self-defense, is completely denied to law-abiding people, like and including our clients. But the U.S. Supreme Court has held that such bans are categorically unconstitutional. We look forward to vindicating the rights of our clients and forcing New Jersey to respect the Constitution.”

“The right to keep and bear arms is not limited to the home,” attorney Kraut declared. “In Heller, the Supreme Court held that to ‘bear’ arms means to ‘carry’ them for ‘a particular purpose—confrontation.’ And even the late Justice Ginsburg wrote that bearing arms means to ‘wear, bear, or carry . . . upon the person or in the clothing or in a pocket, for the purpose . . . of being armed and ready for offensive or defensive action in a case of conflict with another person.’ But the State of New Jersey has totally banned the average law-abiding citizen from exercising their rights. That is unconstitutional and unacceptable.”

“Consequently,” the lawsuit maintains, “because of the Regulatory Scheme and Defendants’ enforcement of it, neither Plaintiffs nor any other ordinary law-abiding adult can exercise their fundamental right to bear arms in New Jersey without being subject to severe criminal sanction.”

Bennett is a firearms dealer. Back in November 2019, Bennet filed an application for a carry permit. According to the lawsuit, Bennett’s application “included the endorsement of three reputable persons who had known him for at least three years and who certified that he is a person of ‘good moral character and behavior, in accordance with the statutory requirements, as well as evidence of the certification necessary to demonstrate sufficient familiarity with the safe handling and use of handguns, as further required under state law.”

Regardless of these factors working in Bennett’s favor, the complaint noted that “on or about July 28, 2020, Plaintiff Bennett received notice from the Clayton Police Department that he had been denied a handgun carry permit for lack of ‘a justifiable need’ under the Regulatory Scheme.”

In the case of Hucker, he submitted his application in October 2018 and expressed his justifiable need to carry in a statement. Hucker is a real estate professional and usually carries cash from renters, so he has a very valid reason to carry for protection purposes. However, his hopes were dashed on February 19, 2019, when the Guttenberg Police Department rejected his application.

The federal lawsuit pointed out that in New Jersey, “any ordinary citizen who knowingly has in his or her possession any handgun without first having obtained a permit to carry the same is guilty of a crime in the second degree.” If convicted, an individual could lose their Second Amendment rights.

The lawsuit goes into meticulous detail about how hard it is for lawful individuals to acquire permits to carry in New Jersey thanks to the many regulatory hurdles individuals must leap over just to exercise a fundamental right.

New Jersey gun laws are among the most stringent in the nation. In fact, Guns & Ammo magazine put the Garden State in a terrible 49th place for its awful gun laws. Second Amendment activists in New Jersey will have to turn to the courts or engage in nullification of state laws to create any change in state policy. Unconventional strategies will have to be exercised in order for American liberties such as the Second Amendment to be restored.

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