(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Louis D. Greenwald aimed at ensuring strong gun safety regulations are codified into law in New Jersey was advanced Wednesday by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
The bill aims to prevent a future governor from attempting to weaken the regulations, as former Gov. Chris Christie attempted.
“New Jersey’s gun safety laws are among the strongest in the nation and we must keep them that way,’ said Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington). “Overturning these unsafe regulations has been a top priority of mine. While I commend Gov. Murphy for doing the right thing to keep our streets safe and ensure laws are enforced as intended, we need to make sure that no future governor can attempt to carelessly weaken our gun safety rules.”
The bill (A-2758) would codify the definition of “justifiable need,” presently outlined only in state regulations into state statute. The measure is a response to Christie’s effort to expand the definition of “justifiable need” for the purpose of obtaining a gun carry permit.
In response to Christie’s proposed amendments, the New Jersey Legislature adopted two concurrent resolutions opposing their adoption, based on the fact that the amendments were inconsistent with legislative intent. Still, the amendments were adopted on April 3, and the Legislature filed a lawsuit in the Appellate Division of the Superior Court challenging the validity.
The Murphy administration recently withdrew its opposition to the lawsuit challenging the validity of the amendments, but Greenwald said the safety regulations need the power of law.
Under current law, in order to lawfully carry a handgun in public, it is necessary for a private citizen to obtain a permit to carry a handgun. Applicants for a permit to carry a handgun need the approval of the chief of police in the municipality where they reside and the approval of a Superior Court judge in the county where they reside. Approval is contingent upon a person submitting, with an application, a written certification establishing justifiable need.
Under longstanding regulation, justifiable need was defined as the 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. In addition, the law requires the applicant, where possible, to corroborate the existence of any specific threats or previous attacks by reference to reports of the incidents to the appropriate law enforcement agencies.
This bill codifies these regulations into statute.
Both state and federal courts upheld the constitutionality of the state’s justifiable need requirement.
“Gov. Christie tried to expand the scope of the right to carry well beyond that authorized under current law and judicial interpretation,” Greenwald said. “That was entirely inconsistent with the Legislature’s intent to strictly limit who carries a handgun outside the home in this state.”