By Theresa Inacker
The NRA, the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs (ANJRPC), the Coalition of New Jersey Firearm Owners (CNJFO), and three individual plaintiffs have filed a federal court case against the Attorney General of New Jersey, the Superintendent of New Jersey State Police and others for their failure to issue permits to carry handguns in the state.
In a federal complaint filed today by Daniel Schmutter of Hartman & Winnicki, P.C., Plaintiffs allege a deprivation of their civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of the Second and Fourteenth Amendments.
Plaintiffs are seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, looking for the court to declare that New Jersey’s “justifiable need” requirement violates the Second and Fourteenth Amendments and is therefore, devoid of any legal force or effect.
In the complaint filed in federal District Court, it is stated:
“according to New Jersey, an ordinary citizen must establish specific threats or previous attacks which put him or her in special and unavoidable danger to obtain a permit from the State to carry a firearm in public. That restriction is akin to a state law concluding that the general desire to advocate for lawful political change is not a sufficiently “justifiable need” to exercise the right to free speech, and it cuts to the very core of the Second Amendment, no less than such a restriction would gut the First.”
It is often said that in New Jersey, your choices are to become a victim, or a felon; a Hobson’s choice.
New Jersey’s gun law statutory scheme works in a negative fashion, because it forbids any person to possess any handgun unless exemptions are met, pushing the burden on the gun owner to prove s/he meets the exemption. In reality, permits to carry are rarely ever given.
Right now, the exemptions allow keeping or carrying a firearm in or about your place of business, residence, premises or other land owned or possessed by you, but not the carrying of a handgun in public. Violating this ban on carry is a crime in the second degree, punishable by between five and ten years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $150,000.
In order to qualify for a carry permit in the Garden State, an applicant has the burden of proving “justifiable need” which is met only if the applicant can “specify in detail the urgent necessity for self-protection, as evidenced by specific threats or previous attacks, which demonstrate a special danger to the applicant’s life that cannot be avoided by reasonable means other than by issuance of a permit to carry a handgun.” New Jersey’s Supreme Court has determined that general fears for personal safety are inadequate.
New Jersey arguably has the most restrictive gun laws in the nation. Various lawsuits have been brought against New Jersey for its unconstitutional schemes, including the case of Rogers v. Grewal in which Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas issued his epic dissent, criticizing the Court for failing in its duty to address the violations of civil rights.
Attorney Daniel Schmutter said:
“When the Supreme Court declined to hear our right-to-carry lawsuit Rogers v. Grewal last term, several Justices strongly dissented from that decision. With a new Justice seated on the Court this term, we hope this new lawsuit presents an opportunity to vindicate the fundamental Second Amendment rights of New Jerseyans and all Americans.”
A copy of this Complaint, Mazareh v. Grewal, can be found here.
Theresa Inacker, an attorney and Second Amendment advocate, is a member of the US Supreme Court bar, the New Jersey delegate to The DC Project, and is a Board Trustee and Communications Director for The Coalition of New Jersey Firearm Owners.