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Gun groups challenge NJ’s ’draconian prohibition’ on the right to carry a handgun outside of home

The Second Amendment (Nick Youngson/Alpha Stock Images)

A group of pro-gun organizations filed a federal lawsuit in New Jersey Monday alleging the firearm laws in the state that prevent most residents from being able to carry a handgun outside their home are unconstitutional.

The Second Amendment Foundation, the Firearms Policy Coalition and the New Jersey 2nd Amendment Society allege in the lawsuit that New Jersey’s “oppressive criminal statutes” deny residents “their fundamental, individual right to bear loaded, operable handguns outside the home.” The lawsuit also challenges the process gun owners must go through in order to obtain a permit to carry a handgun.

Gun owners have previously challenged New Jersey’s right to carry laws, but have been unsuccessful.

However, Alan Gotlieb, of the Second Amendment Foundation, said the recent addition of Amy Coney Barrett, who is known as a conservative judge, to the U.S. Supreme Court prompted the groups to file the lawsuit Monday with hopes of it reaching the high court.

“The Second Amendment absolutely applies in New Jersey,” he said. “We will continue to sue whoever we need to as we restore the Second Amendment one lawsuit at a time.”

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Currently in New Jersey, gun owners without a permit can only possess handguns in their homes or places of business, or while traveling to and from target practicing, in which the gun must be unloaded and locked in a container throughout the entire trip.

Those who unlawfully carry a handgun are subjected to a second-degree felony and up to 10 years of imprisonment.

The lawsuit claims it is a violation of the law-abiding gun owners’ right to bear arms for self-defense.

“New Jersey’s draconian 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,” said Alexander Roubian, president of the New Jersey 2nd Amendment Society. “New Jersey residents want nothing more than to protect themselves and their loved ones, as they are entitled to.”

Those who wish to lawfully carry a loaded handgun outside their home, must apply a for a permit through their local police department or the State Police if no police department exists in the applicant’s town.

Gotlieb said how the process is set up in New Jersey “makes it next to impossible” for most gun owners to obtain the permit, which he alleges is unconstitutional.

As part of their application, the person must provide testimony from three people who attest to the applicant’s “good moral character and behavior,” have certificates that demonstrate gun safety and a familiarity with handling firearms and provide “a written certification of justifiable need to carry a handgun.”

For “justifiable need” to be met, applicants must prove self-protection is necessary, the need is urgent and no alternative exists to armed defense, according to the lawsuit.

Upon review, a member of the police department will either approve or deny the applicant’s permit. If it is approved, it then must also be approved in Superior Court, where the applicant must once again must prove they meet all the requirements.

“Under this (process), both law enforcement and a judge are granted the power to decide on a case-by-case basis whether the right is really worth insisting upon,” the lawsuit says.

If it is denied, the applicant has the right to bring it before a Superior Court judge within 30 days of their denial.

According to the lawsuit, the majority of New Jersey residents who applied are denied — with a limited number of permits granted to those who work security jobs, Gotlieb said. It is unclear how many permits, which only last two years, are issued annually.

The lawsuit names two New Jersey gun owners who received denials recently from their local police departments for failing to meet the “justifiable need” standard.

Neither challenged the local police departments ruling in Superior Court because “the statutory definition of ‘justifiable need’ is one that (they), like millions of others, cannot meet.”

The lawsuit says the process is “more burdensome to the Second Amendment right to bear arms than any historical law that has ever been applied to any person recognized as having full citizenship rights.”

The lawsuit is filed against Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, State Police Superintendent Patrick Callahan and local police officials in the towns where the two plaintiffs were denied a permit to carry.

Grewal, the state’s top law enforcement official, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Gov. Phil Murphy, who was not named in the lawsuit, has implemented a number of gun control measures while in office, including tightening restrictions on handgun-carry permits.

“My position on handgun carry has been clear and unambiguous,” Murphy said in 2018. “There already are too many guns on our streets, and adding more into the equation will not make New Jersey communities any safer.”

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(c) 2020 NJ Advance Media Group

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.