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Greenwald & Weinberg Join With Advocates To Block Christie Administration Effort to Loosen NJ Gun Laws

Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg announced today that they will introduce legislation that would block an attempt by the Christie Administration to loosen New Jersey’s strict gun laws. The leaders were joined today by gun-safety and domestic violence prevention advocates at a Statehouse press conference in announcing their effort.

The Senate and Assembly Concurrent Resolutions seek to prohibit the adoption of regulations proposed by the administration to expand the definition of justifiable need for the purpose of obtaining a gun carry permit.

“New Jersey has the sixth lowest rate of gun deaths in our nation, and this Legislature has worked hard to create responsible gun policies that promote firearm safety,” said Majority Leader Greenwald (D-Camden). “This change in regulation doesn’t just strip away the intent of the legislature to limit who can carry outside the home, it is worded so vaguely that virtually anyone will be able to come up with a reason to carry a gun in public.”

“If these proposed regulations are adopted, they would significantly loosen New Jersey’s appropriately strict gun laws. They would allow every cab driver, pizza delivery driver, and anyone else living or working in a high-crime neighborhood to qualify for a firearm carry permit. This is completely contrary to our current laws which are intended to limit who carries a handgun outside of the home, and permit only those with a specific threat to their life to carry a firearm,” said Majority Leader Weinberg (D-Bergen). “We cannot allow the administration to alter our strong gun laws. This legislation is the first step in blocking these efforts.”

To obtain a permit to carry a handgun, an applicant is required to provide a certification of justifiable need, defined in regulation 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 a handgun.”

The Division of State Police is proposing regulations to amend the “justifiable need” standard by adding “serious threats” to the circumstances that could demonstrate justifiable need to carry a weapon and clarifying that the means of possible avoidance of the danger must be “reasonable.” The change would allow applicants to qualify for a gun permit even if the threats, while serious, are not specifically directed at them.

Current law and judicial interpretations of the justifiable need standard clearly require demonstration of an urgent necessity for protection from a specified threat to one’s life rather than a mere generalized fear or concern, the resolution states. The proposed regulatory amendment expanding the scope of the right to carry well beyond that authorized under current law and judicial interpretation is inconsistent with the Legislature’s intent to strictly limit who carries a handgun outside the home, according to the resolution.

“Increasing the number of individuals with access to firearms in our communities will only increase the number of lives lost – not protected – from gun violence. We must begin to look at the root causes of gun violence in our communities, and the factors that contribute to the perpetration of such violence. When we conduct such an evaluation, we can then identify and implement strategies that will truly protect our communities and families today and in the future,” said Jane Shivas, Executive Director, New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence.

“Loosening the Garden State’s rules on carrying loaded and concealed handguns in public both would increase the likelihood of gun violence while fulfilling the wishes of no more than a tiny and loud minority of New Jerseyans. This illogical proposal disregards the safety of New Jersey’s residents who have overwhelmingly supported the state’s strong gun laws. We stand with the legislators who are working to preserve these important protections and our communities against senseless gun violence,” said Bryan Miller, a longtime state gun violence prevention advocacy leader, who serves as executive director of Heeding God’s Call to End Gun Violence.

“In addition to being contrary to current law, the Christie Administration’s proposed amendment absolutely defies common sense,” said Dennis Hirschfelder, a leader of the Bergen County Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence. “The amendment especially threatens the lives of innocent people who happen to be caught in the line of fire. New Jersey has one of the strongest set of laws and regulations of any state in the nation to prevent gun-related deaths and injuries. In the interest of public health, we must keep it that way.”

“It is a proven fact that adding more guns to the streets is not the answer. There is very real correlation between New Jersey having some of the strongest gun laws in the country and also one of the lowest murder rates,” said Carole Stiller, President of the NJ Million Mom March Chapters of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “Our focus needs to be on public safety, and the proposed regulatory amendment would not improve protections for residents – it would do the complete opposite. The people of New Jersey deserve better.”

“National Council Of Jewish Women Bergen County Section works for laws, policies and programs that restrict and regulate firearms and ammunition, promote gun safety and prevent gun violence,” said Bea Podorefsky, president of advocacy/education of the National Council of Jewish Women, Bergen County Section. “Consistent with this resolution, NCJW urges state legislators to reject the governor’s proposal. Bergen County Section will continue to address the ease and accessibility of firearms leading to the escalation of deaths across the country.”

“People of faith are working hard to reduce gun violence in New Jersey; the Governor’s proposed action will take us further in the wrong direction,” said Joel Mosbacher of Don’t Stand Idly By.

Governor Christie announced the change on April 8th as part of a larger administrative proposal and, in doing so, cited the death of Berlin resident Carol Bowne, who was stabbed to death by her ex-boyfriend last year. She had applied for a gun permit and was awaiting approval at the time of her death.

“The awful tragedy which the governor used as an illustration of why he was changing the regulations really concerned the length of time it took for the victim to obtain a right to carry permit,” added Senator Weinberg. “We will be working on a bill to clarify these time limits and to eliminate any confusion in definitions.”

“Violence in our community undermines the safety of all our families, but our moral obligation is to react in a way which truly fixes the problem,” said Assemblyman Greenwald. “The governor proposed these regulations partially in response to a tragedy in my district, but a mass arming of our society is not the right way to fix the problem.”

The resolutions are part of the constitutionally-prescribed process to prohibit the adoption of proposed regulations if the Legislature finds they are inconsistent with legislative intent. Upon passage by the Legislature, the resolutions would be transmitted to the Governor and the agency director; the agency would have 30 days to amend or withdraw the regulation. If the agency fails to do so, the Legislature may prohibit the adoption of the proposed regulation by holding a hearing, and, after 20 days, approving a second resolution to invalidate the proposal.

A copy of the resolution can be viewed here.