The past month has brought a wave of changes to individual gun rights, affecting citizens in New Jersey and across the country. Amidst the frenzy of activity at both the Supreme Court and state levels, it can be difficult to stay up to date with all of the changes, let alone what these might mean for you. Below we’ve broken down what you need to know.
New York gun law is struck down
In the first major gun decision by the Supreme Court in more than a decade, the court struck down a New York gun law on June 23rd, 2022. The landmark ruling stated that the Second Amendment protects the rights of citizens to carry a handgun outside of the home for self-defense purposes. The New York law, in place since 1913, stated that citizens had a right to obtain a license to carry a firearm in public in a concealed manner – but only by first demonstrating a need to do so. The Supreme Court ruled this violated the Second Amendment.
Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote for the majority, stated the following: “We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need.” The court’s six conservative justices were in the majority, with the three liberal justices in dissent.
While this decision struck down a New York law, the A.P. reports that about one-quarter of the country’s population lives in states that will likely be affected by this as well. Six states, including New Jersey, have similar laws in place with “justifiable need” requirements that will likely face immediate challenges.
Throwing out lower court rulings in light of the June 23rd ruling
Following this ruling, the Supreme Court then threw out a handful of lower court rulings upholding gun restrictions across several states on June 30th. In doing so, these cases were sent back to lower courts to now consider in light of the court’s recent ruling striking down the New York law.
Notably, these lower court rulings included bans on assault-style rifles in Maryland, bans on large-capacity firearm magazines in New Jersey and California and restrictions on openly carrying firearms in public in Hawaii.
What this means for New Jersey gun owners
With these changes, NJ.com reports that state officials anticipate hundreds of thousands of new carry permit applications. In 2021, 503 gun carry permits were approved, while 26 were denied. However, 55,676 permits to purchase a handgun without carry privileges were approved in the same year, while 158 were denied. While gun owners will still need to obtain a permit to carry in public, there will no longer be a justifiable need to first demonstrate.
There could be more changes on the way for New Jersey citizens as well. Governor Phil Murphy and his administration have indicated they will work to identify ways to respond to the Supreme Court ruling to add new firearms restrictions. These could include identifying “sensitive places” where guns may not be allowed. And earlier in July, Gov. Murphy signed seven bills into law further tightening gun laws, including mandating firearm training in order to obtain a gun permit, requiring new out-of-state residents to register their firearms, cracking down on “ghost guns” and more.
New Jersey’s gun laws have been notoriously strict for years. However, recent changes at the Supreme Court level, coupled with changes at the state level, have made it easy for New Jersey gun owners to question what the law might now mean for them. It is important to understand your rights.