It’s far from the last decision in the case, but Second Amendment advocates and gun owners in New Jersey won a big victory on Monday as a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order blocking several aspects of New Jersey’s latest restrictions on the right to carry from being enforced for the time being.
The lawsuit, which was brought a coalition of Second Amendment groups including the Second Amendment Foundation, Firearms Policy Coalition, Coalition of New Jersey Firearm Owners, and New Jersey Second Amendment Society, doesn’t challenge every part of the new laws. Instead, it takes aim specifically at the number of newly designated “sensitive places” enacted by Gov. Phil Murphy and the legislature in late December, and U.S. District Judge Renée Marie Bumb believes that many of these “gun-free zones” aren’t likely to pass constitutional muster. From today’s opinion:
As Plaintiffs lament, the challenged provisions force a person permitted to carry a firearm in New Jersey to “navigate a ‘veritable minefield.’” [Pls’. Br. at 12.] Their view is a legitimate one. The Court knows of no constitutional right that requires this much guesswork by individuals wanting to exercise such right.
With such sweeping legislation that includes catch-alls, Plaintiffs cannot decipher what constitutes a “sensitive place,” and so they have abandoned their constitutional right to bear arms out of fear of criminal penalty. Relatedly, Plaintiffs argue that these provisions sweep so broadly that the legislation “effectively shuts off most public areas from carrying for self-defense.” [Pls.’ Br. at 30.] In the final analysis, at some point on the line, when a constitutional right becomes so burdensome or unwieldy to exercise, it is, in effect, no longer a constitutional right. Plaintiffs have made a convincing case that this legislation has reached that point.
Bumb enjoined enforcement of the ban on concealed carry in libraries and museums, bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, and entertainment facilities, as well as the de-facto designation of all private property as “gun-free zones” and the portion of the new law requiring concealed carry holders to unholster and unload their firearm and keep it stored in a “secure container” while they’re in a vehicle. In her opinion, Bumb pointed out that the historical record as established has led other courts to conclude that banning concealed carry in public transportation is a no-no, and the evidence for government barring the lawful bearing of arms in private transportation is in essence non-existent.