New Jersey

In Challenge to New NJ Gun Law, Hearing Brings More Debate – But No Decision

State prosecutors defending New Jersey’s new gun law clashed in court Friday with gun rights advocates urging a federal judge to issue an order blocking its enforcement on constitutional grounds.

After an extensive four-hour hearing at the Mitchell H. Cohen U.S. Courthouse in Camden, Judge Renée Marie Bumb made no decision and set a new deadline – March 27 – for both sides to file petitions. other submissions responding to unresolved issues.

At stake is the state’s sweeping new gun law, which lawmakers rushed to pass after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down New York’s concealed carry law last summer. York, forcing states, including New Jersey, to waive requirements that gun owners prove they need to take guns outside. their home or business.

Lawyers representing gun owners spent Friday’s hearing challenging various parts of the law Governor Phil Murphy signed into law in December, including his ban on guns in sensitive places like airports and parks, increased permit fees, requirements for gun owners to carry firearms accident liability insurance, and exemptions that allow judges and prosecutors to wear weapons where others cannot.

They wanted a preliminary injunction that would prevent the new law from being applied as their challenge progresses through the system.

For much of the audience, it was unclear which team won, as Bumb fended off both.

When attorney Daniel Schmutter, arguing against the law, complained that police were “deciding ad hoc” who should be denied permits beyond banned groups like convicted felons, Bumb replied, “Are you saying the Legislative Assembly should be prescient and list all the scenarios in which they say this person shouldn’t carry a gun?”

Later, Bumb asked Deputy Solicitor General Angela Cai to define what lawmakers meant by banning guns from “transport hubs,” but Cai offered so many caveats and uncertainties, as if these centers included marinas, which the judge ended his questioning with a heavy sigh.

“OK, do you understand my concern? Boom asked.

She seemed upset with the state legislature, citing confusion over various parts of the law as “indicating legislation that has not been clearly thought out.” During a discussion about renewing the license, she and the lawyers turned to the language of the law to discern its meaning – but still could not agree.

“Is this the court’s problem? Is this the legislator’s problem? I think it’s the latter,” Bumb said. ” I do not know the answer. But I guess neither does the state.

The Mitchell H. Cohen US Courthouse in Camden. (Dana DiFilippo | New Jersey Monitor)

Bruen’s test

In the New York decision known as Bruen, U.S. Supreme Court justices established a new test for Second Amendment cases, focusing on whether there is historical precedent for the regulation in dispute. .

So on Friday, opposing attorneys spent much of the hearing trying to show why history dating back to the colonial era was on their side — or why it shouldn’t necessarily carry the weight Bruen gave it. Cai pointed to other constitutionally protected civil rights, such as voting, that were historically granted only to white males.

The Bruen ruling also rejected New York officials’ attempt to ban guns in crowded places, saying areas like Manhattan are essentially a sprawling, crowded place. Schmutter applied that logic to some of New Jersey’s sensitive location bans.

“All airports are really, are crowded places,” he said.

Attorney Edward Kologi represents Senate Speaker Nicholas Scutari and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin. He sent grunts into the courtroom, where gun rights advocates filled the spectator benches, just minutes after they began speaking.

“Guns have only two functions – to kill or seriously injure,” Kologi said.

This provoked an irritated retort from the judge.

“You forgot the right to self-defense,” Bumb said.

She added: “You say that when there are more guns, there is more violence. This is the analysis you want to engage in. But that’s not the record I have in front of me. We are talking about law-abiding citizens who get permits. You’re asking this court to presume that those with valid transportation permits will somehow engage in violence, and that’s a step too far.

Schmutter insisted Bruen supported the unlimited right to wear, and fellow lawyer David Jensen, another attorney who argued against the new law in court on Friday, predicted appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The state’s position is basically: We don’t like Bruen…New Jersey says: We don’t like guns,” Schmutter said. “But the Supreme Court says you can’t do that.”

After four hours, the lawyers had not finished. But Bumb was. She ordered them to submit further arguments in 10-page briefs within a week – which she extended until March 27, when a lawyer requested additional time due to a planned vacation.

She agreed – and smiled as she recalled the impatience that prompted the attorney general’s office earlier this month to threaten to appeal its temporary restraining orders on the new law.

“I don’t want the state to tell me I’m taking too long,” she said.

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