Judge temporarily blocks parts of N.J.’s controversial new concealed carry law

The injunction follows a lawsuit from gun rights groups challenging the constitutionality of a rule that makes it illegal to carry a handgun in several “sensitive places.”

Governor Murphy hold up signed gun safety legislation

File photo: New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed new concealed carry restrictions into law on Dec. 22, 2022. (Courtesy of the Office of Governor Phil Murphy/Flickr)

A federal judge moved Monday to temporarily block parts of New Jersey’s controversial new concealed carry law.

The injunction follows a lawsuit from gun rights groups challenging the constitutionality of a rule that makes it illegal to carry a handgun in several state-appointed “sensitive places,” like bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, public libraries, museums, or entertainment venues.

Gov. Phil Murphy, who signed the law in late December, said he was “disappointed” with Judge Renee Bumb’s decision, insinuating it was politically motivated.

“While we are pleased that most of our concealed carry law remains in effect, we are disappointed that a right-wing federal judge, without any serious justification, has chosen to invalidate common sense restrictions around the right to carry a firearm in certain public spaces,” a spokesperson for the Governor’s Office said in a statement Monday afternoon. “We are working closely with the Attorney General’s Office to correct this errant decision and to ensure that the law will be reinstated in its entirety.”

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Even before the Legislature passed the measure along party lines last month, Republican lawmakers hinted it would face legal challenges. State Sen. Jon Bramnick (R-Union) was one of several GOP lawmakers to speak out against the sensitive places component on the Senate floor as his colleagues took up the then-bill.

“You haven’t really pursued the quest towards common sense gun laws, if you’re passing legislation that immediately, within a couple of weeks, is stayed by the district court,” Bramnick said Monday. “Politically, it might sound good, but realistically, instead of doing something that would have actually passed constitutional muster, all you did was make a political statement.”

Democratic leaders, including Senate President Nick Scutari (D-Union) and Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex) also expressed frustration with the injunction. The new law was crafted by the Democratic party in response to a Supreme Court decision that effectively struck down New Jersey’s “justifiable need” restrictions last summer.

“Keeping dangerous weapons out of places like daycare centers, schools, hospitals, and places serving alcohol is just plain common sense. I am disappointed in the temporary restraining order and look forward to the full law taking effect in order to keep our families and communities safe,” Coughlin said.

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Democrats and violence prevention groups, like Everytown Law, believe the new law is constitutional and say they intend to continue to fight for its full implementation

Despite the decision, much of the law remains enforceable, including requirements on firearm safety training and a mandate that people who obtain a permit to carry must also purchase firearm liability insurance.

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