Full N.J. Assembly vote on concealed carry bill could come as early as this week, committee chair says

A closeup of the New Jersey Statehouse

A closeup of the New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Democratic state lawmakers have proposed updates to New Jersey’s concealed carry requirements after a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling threw the state’s existing laws into flux.

Oversight, Reform and Federal Relations Committee Chairman Joe Danielsen (D-Somerset) said the full General Assembly could vote on the measure as early as Thursday.

New Jersey has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, making it nearly impossible for most people to obtain a license to carry a firearm in public.

The current law requires people to show “justifiable need,” meaning they have 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.”

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Monday, the General Assembly Oversight, Reform, and Federal Relations Committee discussed a Democratic proposal that would remove some requirements, like the justifiable need standard, while upping other requirements.

New Jersey law requires people seeking a concealed carry to have three endorsements from people who can attest to their “moral character and behavior.” The new proposal would see the number of endorsements increase to five people, unrelated to the applicant. It would also require the police chief or superintendent to interview anyone providing endorsements, “if appropriate.” Applicants granted a concealed carry permit would also be required to purchase liability insurance.

The bill also seeks to establish various handgun-free zones, including government-owned properties, schools, universities, bars, restaurants that serve alcohol, entertainment venues, and more.

Much of Monday’s discussion centered around exemptions for retired law enforcement officers in those gun-free zones. Under the proposal, retired officers are exempt from most gun-free zones — except in ultra-sensitive locations, like municipal buildings. Some retired law enforcement officers and Republican lawmakers said they are concerned the provision would not survive legal challenges,  t potentially putting retired officers in a compromising position.

“I don’t want to see any former law enforcement officers get in trouble by accidentally being in one of those areas,” Assemblyman Michael Torrissi Jr. (R-Burlington) said. “It’s kind of gray area to me. I believe we do need to have strict regulations on carrying but some of it was a little vague.”

The bill also expands the list of disqualifying criteria that would prohibit a person from acquiring a firearm purchaser’s ID card, permit to purchase a handgun and license to carry.

Disqualifying criteria would include:

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  • People presently confined for a mental disorder, as a voluntary admission or involuntary commitment for inpatient or outpatient treatment.
  • People who have violated a temporary or final restraining order issued under the “Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991”, or a domestic violence restraining order issued in another jurisdiction prohibiting the person from possessing any firearm.
  • People at risk of or have previously violated a temporary or final restraining order issued under the “Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act of 2015”.
  • People who committed to inpatient or outpatient mental health treatment, unless the court has expunged the person’s record.
  • People previously convicted of a crime outside of New Jersey, not including individuals seeking reproductive health care services in New Jersey.
  • People convicted of a fourth-degree crime for violating the handgun carry requirements established under the bill.

Chairman Joe Danielsen (D-Somerset) said Monday he believes the bill could come up for a full Assembly vote this week.

“This whole entire bill is responding to what we believe the far majority of people in New Jersey expect of us — that is to keep them safe,” Danielsen said.

Also Monday, The committee approved a measure that would allow police officers to work at schools and senior residential centers that operate as polling locations on Election Day.

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