A commission launched by Gov. Chris Christie to investigate New Jersey’s gun laws suggests that the state clarify some of its existing statutes and standardize the process for obtaining a carry permit.
“New Jersey’s extraordinarily strict and expansive gun control laws and regulations have given rise to rules and restrictions that are complicated and unfair to law abiding New Jerseyans,” said Christie, who backed the findings.
Among the commission’s recommendations are calls to clarify the “justifiable need” requirement an applicant must meet for a permit to carry a gun and normalize the procedure local governments follow when issuing permits. The commission also suggested publishing the permit-processing times of municipal police departments to increase transparency.
Christie formed the commission after the June murder of Berlin Township hairdresser Carol Bowne, who was killed by her ex-boyfriend as she awaited approval of her gun permit application.
New Jersey Second Amendment Society president Alexander Roubian said the changes proposed by the commission are disappointing and could make it more difficult for citizens to obtain guns — and he blames leadership at the top.
“People know Gov. Christie as the man who stood up to the unions and fought for pension reform, shut down Trenton,” said Roubian. “The mere fact that he’s not doing the same for us for the Second Amendment just goes to show that he doesn’t really care about the issue.”
Reactions like Roubian’s will not help Christie as he campaigns for the GOP nomination for president. Montclair University political science professor Brigid Harrison said the recommendations come at an inconvenient moment for the Republican, who has been vigorously courting voters in New Hampshire.
“New Hampshireites love their guns and they tend to be — particularly in the GOP caucus — really anti-gun control laws,” said Harrison. “This is something that could be used against him by his opponents.”
What remains to be seen is whether the recommendations, once implemented, make a splash in the Garden State. UCLA law professor Adam Winkler said clearing up the New Jersey’s gun laws will not necessarily make it easier or harder to obtain a permit.
“It seems like this is more of an effort to try to clarify what the standard is, rather than greatly expand or greatly diminish the number of permit holders,” he said.
Winkler added that clarifying unclear laws such as firearms statutes in New Jersey is ultimately a win for residents.
“Whenever you have government officials doling out government benefits,” he said, “clarity and certainty are more important than broad discretion that can be used to discriminate against minorities, outcasts, dissenters.”
Acting Attorney General John Hoffman now has the task of implementing the commission’s recommendations.