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May 17, 2023

A federal judge rules parts of New Jersey's gun carry law unconstitutional

The state's ban on carrying firearms within 100 feet of public gatherings, zoos, bars, restaurants and some entertainment venues violates the Second Amendment, judge says

Courts Gun Control
NJ Gun law blocked Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

A federal judge blocked parts of a New Jersey gun law that banned firearms from being brought within 100 feet of public gatherings, zoos, bars, restaurants and certain entertainment facilities.

Second Amendment rights activists got their way after a federal judge blocked parts of New Jersey's gun carry law. 

The court order will bar the state from enforcing a law prohibiting legal gun owners from bringing firearms within 100 feet of public gatherings, zoos, bars, restaurants and some entertainment venues, the Associated Press reports.

Under the law, violators face three to five years in prison and fines of up to $15,000.

The judge's ruling also blocked the requirement that all gun permit holders get liability insurance. 

U.S. District Judge Renée Marie Bumb called much of New Jersey's law unconstitutional, citing the Supreme Court's 2022 decision on handgun carry permits.

"With some exceptions, Chapter 131's firearm permitting scheme generally...aims to keep firearms out of the hands of those who could harm the public," Bumb wrote. "What the State of New Jersey has done here is to 'prevent law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right to keep and bear arms.' That is plainly unconstitutional.”

Scott Bach, head of the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, said that Bumb's ruling should be a lesson to Gov. Phil Murphy and state legislators to stop trying to block law-abiding citizens from having guns and to instead focus on criminals.

The law requires all licensed carriers to take a gun-safety training course and raises the permit application fee from $2 to $25, the first increase since 1966.

The gun law does not make residents show proper cause to obtain a permit, as considered by lawmakers.

The 2022 law was passed after the U.S. Supreme Court's 6-3 ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen last June, which overturned a New York law that required residents to show "proper cause" to get concealed-carry permits. It invalidated similar gun laws in New Jersey, California, Maryland, Massachusetts and Hawaii at the same time.

"By signing this legislation, Gov. Murphy has effectively ended any chance of ever being elected to higher office outside of New Jersey and has confirmed that the Constitution is indeed 'above his pay grade,'" Bach said when Murphy signed the bill into law last December. 

Murphy's camp did not agree with the decision to block parts of the gun-carrying law.

"This poorly reasoned decision sends exactly the wrong message as our nation confronts another devastating wave of mass shootings that have taken the lives of many across our country, including children," Tyler Jones, a spokesperson for the governor, said.

Last summer, Murphy signed a seven-bill gun safety package aimed at regulating aspects of gun sales and enhancing safety while enabling law-abiding gun owners to keep their firearms.