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Weinberg & Gill Measure To Block Christie Administration Effort to Loosen NJ Gun Laws Advances

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TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Senator Nia H. Gill that would block an attempt by the Christie Administration to loosen New Jersey’s strict gun laws was approved today by the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee.

The Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR-101) seeks to prohibit the adoption of regulations proposed by the administration to expand the definition of justifiable need for the purpose of obtaining a gun carry permit.

“If these proposed regulations are adopted, they would significantly loosen New Jersey’s appropriately strict gun laws. They would allow every cab driver, pizza delivery driver, and anyone else living or working in a high-crime neighborhood to qualify for a firearm carry permit. This is completely contrary to our current laws which are intended to limit who carries a handgun outside of the home, and permit only those with a specific threat to their life to carry a firearm,” said Majority Leader Weinberg (D-Bergen). “We cannot allow the administration to alter our strong gun laws. This legislation is the first step in blocking this effort.”

“We will not permit the administration to single-handedly change the law to relax the state’s carefully crafted requirements for obtaining a carry permit,” said Senator Gill (D-Essex, Passaic). “Doing so will not only make our state less safe, but it is inconsistent with legislative intent. It is our obligation as the Legislative Branch, a coequal branch of government, to prevent this improper move.”

To obtain a permit to carry a handgun, an applicant is required to provide a certification of justifiable need, defined in regulation as “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 means other than by issuance of a permit to carry a handgun.”

The Division of State Police is proposing regulations to amend the “justifiable need” standard by adding “serious threats” to the circumstances that could demonstrate justifiable need to carry a weapon and clarifying that the means of possible avoidance of the danger must be “reasonable.” The change would allow applicants to qualify for a gun permit even if the threats, while serious, are not specifically directed at them.

Current law and judicial interpretations of the justifiable need standard clearly require demonstration of an urgent necessity for protection from a specified threat to one’s life rather than a mere generalized fear or concern, the resolution states. The proposed regulatory amendment expanding the scope of the right to carry well beyond that authorized under current law and judicial interpretation is inconsistent with the Legislature’s intent to strictly limit who carries a handgun outside the home, according to the resolution.

The resolution is part of the constitutionally-prescribed process to prohibit the adoption of proposed regulations if the Legislature finds they are inconsistent with legislative intent. Upon passage by the Legislature, the resolution would be transmitted to the Governor and the agency director; the agency would have 30 days to amend or withdraw the regulation. If the agency fails to do so, the Legislature may prohibit the adoption of the proposed regulation by holding a hearing, and, after 20 days, approving a second resolution to invalidate the proposal.

The resolution was approved by a vote of 3-2.