(The Center Square) – New Jersey is taking steps to tighten gun control laws in response to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, but the move is facing a new legal challenge.
Last week, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill that will prevent licensed firearm owners from carrying guns in at least 25 "sensitive places" like government buildings, libraries, public transportation and day care centers. It would also restrict firearm carrying on private property when the owner does not allow them.
Murphy said the new restrictions come in response to the Supreme Court's decision in the N.Y. State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen case, which struck down a New York law requiring applicants to show “proper cause” to get a permit to carry a firearm.
The high court's conservative majority affirmed the constitutional right to carry firearms in public places for self-defense, which has prompted reviews of firearm licensing laws in New Jersey and other states that heavily restricted gun ownership.
"While I strongly disagree with that decision, we must abide by it, and today's law fully respects the Second Amendment while keeping guns out of the wrong hands and preventing them from proliferating in our communities," Murphy said in a statement.
New Jersey's newly enacted law also increases the fee for firearm permits from $2 to $25, and tightens requirements to obtain a carry permit by requiring additional training.
But the new legislation immediately drew a legal challenge from gun rights groups, who argue it's an unconstitutional overreach of the state government's authority.
A lawsuit filed by the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs claims the new law "flagrantly and intentionally" violates the Second Amendment and the U.S. Supreme Court's Bruen decision "upholding the right of honest citizens to carry firearms for personal protection."
"Not only will this legislation go down in flames in our lawsuit, but the Murphy administration will end up paying the very substantial legal costs of gun owners to bring it down," Scott Bach, the group's executive director, said in a statement.
The group is asking a judge to grant an emergency injunction preventing the new law from going into effect, while the court reviews its complaint.
Murphy acknowledged the new law would face a legal challenge, but said the state was ready to defend it.
Attorney General Platkin said he is confident the law passes legal muster, and said it will "keep communities safe by keeping firearms out of the wrong hands and away from sensitive locations, such as where children learn and play."
Platkin and other New Jersey officials say the state's tough firearm safety laws have helped it maintain one of the lowest firearm mortality rates in the country.
But they point out there are still hundreds of gun-related deaths each year in the state, which has also seen mass shootings including a 2019 incident where two individuals targeted a kosher market in Hudson County in an attack that claimed the lives of six people, including a Jersey City police officer.
"We remain steadfast in protecting New Jerseyans from the epidemic of gun violence while respecting Second Amendment rights," Platkin said in a statement.
New Jersey is also facing a legal challenge over its "public nuisance" law, which authorizes the attorney general to file lawsuits against the gun industry if it "knowingly or recklessly contribute to a public nuisance" by failing to maintain "reasonable controls" on the sale, manufacturing, distribution, importing, or marketing of gun-related products.
But the National Shooting Sports Foundation argues in a federal lawsuit that Congress barred "baseless lawsuits" against gun makers in 2005, when it passed the bipartisan Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which gave firearm manufacturers and sellers broad immunity from most litigation.