Fast-track bill to limit concealed carry stumbles as constitutional concerns rise

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An accelerated procedure invoice Limiting concealed carry in New Jersey hit a snag on Thursday when Assembly leaders withdrew it from a scheduled vote, admitting its sweeping restrictions could face constitutional scrutiny.

The overturned vote came the same day a Senate panel approved the bill along party lines – and with around 15 amendments that appear to be aimed at placating critics who have vowed to fight any new laws in court. The bill, introduced two weeks ago, has already been approved along party lines by three Assembly committees.

Assemblyman Louis Greenwald (D-Camden), one of the bill’s sponsors and the House Majority Leader, said lawmakers plan to revise the bill’s wording to s ensure “that it is directly consistent with our legislative intent”.

“It may help constitutional arguments in the end,” Greenwald said. “The focus is on making sure it’s not too broad, not too vague and that it stands up to a challenge.”

Greenwald said lawmakers still aim to pass the bill by the end of November.

“Obviously the day the Governor signs it there will be legal challenges – those who oppose it have already made that clear,” said MP John McKeon (D-Essex), another patron of the law Project. “So we do whatever we need to do to intersect our t’s and our dots on the i’s. The resolution is not lacking. On the contrary, we are even more determined to get something to the governor’s office.

Lawmakers say they drafted the bill to counter the rise in gun use they to anticipate after around 300,000 gun owners apply for concealed carry permits following a US Supreme Court ruling decision in June who asserted a constitutional right to carry. In the ruling, the nation’s highest court struck down a New York law requiring gun owners to prove why they must carry a concealed weapon, prompting New Jersey to remove its similar requirement. of “justifiable need”.

New Jersey’s bill would create new hurdles for gun owners seeking to carry licenses and delineate 25 categories of sensitive places where guns are prohibited, ranging from beaches to bars to parks.

But gun rights advocates have identified various provisions of the bill that they find problematic — and grounds for legal challenge. A federal judge in New York last week temporarily stopped a similar ban on firearms in sensitive places, citing constitutional concerns.

Some of the amendments made to the New Jersey bill since its introduction have addressed the concerns of critics. After gun supporters complained about a provision that would allow the state’s 565 municipalities to set their own sensitive locations where guns would be banned, lawmakers amended the bill to remove it.

Scott Bach, president of the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs, sounded the alarm on Wednesday about alternate language in the bill referring to “weapons.” Such vague wording could refer to any everyday tool, including mops, kitchen utensils and knitting needles, the association warned in an alert to members.

Greenwald acknowledged Thursday that the gun verbiage was an adjustment lawmakers would make before delaying the bill for a full Assembly vote.

We’re just doing whatever we need to do to cross our t’s and dot our i’s. The resolution is not lacking. On the contrary, we are even more determined to get something to the governor’s office.

– Assemblyman John McKeon

Earlier in the day during the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee, Senator Linda Greenstein (D-Middlesex), chair of the committee, agreed that some unclear terms of the bill needed further consideration. .

The committee made 15 amendments to the bill. Two amendments would remove the requirement that a person holding a transport license stopped by the police must produce the firearm for inspection and present proof of liability insurance. Two others would allow active and retired law enforcement officers to carry a handgun in sensitive places where the public cannot take them.

Still, supporters and critics spent nearly three hours debating the bill on Thursday, with particularly tense exchanges between Democratic panelists and Sen. Ed Durr (R-Gloucester), whose political campaign centered on Second Amendment rights.

Sen. Ed Durr (R-Gloucester) testifies against a bill that would limit concealed carry before the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee on Oct. 27, 2022. (Photo by Dana DiFilippo | New Jersey Monitor)

“If I were to sit here and list all the problems with this bill, we would be here until next week,” Durr told the panel.

Durr was particularly opposed to the fee increases proposed in the legislation, complaining that they “would make it impossible for someone of modest means to protect themselves”.

He questioned the state’s ongoing efforts to reduce its prison population while tightening gun control at the same time.

“You were making room (in jail) for all the responsible but unlucky gun owners who are going to unwittingly violate this bill,” he said.

Sen. Nia Gill (D-Essex) pushed back against some of Durr’s claims about the bill violating the Constitution and the Supreme Court’s June ruling.

“I’m a lawyer,” Gill told Durr.

He replied, “I have seen many lawyers make mistakes.

Gill retorted, “I’ve seen lawmakers get it wrong too.”

After nearly three hours of testimony, the panel moved the bill forward.

“This is a legislative exercise that we need to do for the court to determine the legislative constitutionality of this,” Gill said.

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