N.J. Assembly passes concealed carry restrictions following 2-hour debate

The bill seeks to establish various handgun-free zones, including government-owned properties, schools, bars, some restaurants, and entertainment venues.

Final tally on the conceal carry bill in the New Jersey Assembly. (N.J. Legislature livestream)

Final tally on the conceal carry bill in the New Jersey Assembly. (N.J. Legislature livestream)

The New Jersey’s General Assembly passed a bill updating the state’s existing concealed carry rules Monday, in response to a U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down laws prohibiting concealed carry.

Lawmakers largely voted along party lines after a fierce two hour debate on the Assembly floor. The approval follows four different committee hearings and multiple amendments.

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

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It would also remove some requirements for obtaining a permit to carry, like the justifiable need standard, while upping other requirements — like increasing the amount of endorsements people must receive on their concealed carry application and adding new disqualifying criteria that would prevent some people from obtaining a permit.

Assemblyman Joe Danielsen (D-Somerset), the bill’s sponsor and a self-proclaimed “gun enthusiast,” said the legislation “strikes the important balance between respecting and protecting people’s second amendment rights,” and being “responsible” about gun safety.

Assemblyman Joe Danielsen (D-Somerset), the bill’s sponsor, speaks in favor. (N.J. Legislature livestream)

Danielsen also claimed the measure had support from law enforcement, after groups like the State Troopers Association and the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association endorsed it last week.

At recent committee hearings, some officers and state lawmakers expressed that they wanted less restrictions for retired officers.

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“Thank you to my friends in blue for helping us make New Jersey a safer place. To my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, our vigorous discussions led to additional amendments to address points raised during the hearings and committees. I have taken those comments and questions seriously. And I have given them much deliberation,” Danielsen said at Monday’s voting session.

Republicans urged their colleagues on the other side of the aisle to vote against the bill. Some argued it will make the state less safe and suggested that state leaders take other measures to ensure public safety, like enacting bail reform which would make it more costly for people accused of violent crimes to post bail.

Republicans repeatedly attacked the proposal as unconstitutional.

Assemblywoman Beth Sawyer (R-Gloucester), who is Jewish, recalled violent threats made toward New Jersey synagogues this month, when explaining her reason for opposing the bill.

Assemblywoman Beth Sawyer (R-Gloucester) speaks opposing New Jersey’s latest concealed carry proposal. (N.J. Legislature livestream)

“You’re going to disarm an entire community as they walk to their synagogue to worship on Saturdays or any event,” Sawyer said. “There’s a rise in antisemitic attacks across this country, let alone across the state. I find this bill offensive. I find it discriminating and I find it unconstitutional.”

New Jersey already has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. This year Governor Murphy signed several other gun laws, including: a ban .50-caliber weapons, the regulation and tracking of ammunition sales, and a requirement that prospective gun owners pass a certified safety course in order to obtain a firearm purchasers ID card.

The state Senate still has to vote on the bill in order for it to pass the full Legislature. Monday’s voting session will be live streamed on the Legislature’s website.

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