Gov. Chris Christie offered beleaguered New Jersey gun owners a ray of hope last week as he announced amendments to the gun policies that govern concealed carry permits and the transportation of firearms.
Christie cited the tragic death of Carol Browne as his motivation for loosening gun regulations. Browne, a New Jersey resident, was stabbed to death by her ex-boyfriend earlier this year while awaiting a concealed carry permit.
“The terrible tragedy involving Berlin resident Carol Bowne last summer was a jarring example of a permitting system that had failed and needed to be reexamined and fixed,” Christie said. The new policies, he continued, are meant to ensure that “constitutional rights will be protected and respected in New Jersey.”
The new language will allow citizens to obtain concealed carry permits if they can prove a “serious threat” to their person. The previous language forced citizens to prove “specific threats or previous attacks” before being approved for a permit, which, according to NJ.com, almost never happened unless the applicant was “former police and sheriff’s deputies and those employed as armed security guards.”
As an example of a “serious” but not “specific” threat, the Attorney General’s office described “a taxi driver who works nights in a particular precinct where armed assailants recently and on multiple occasions had flagged down cabs at night and robbed and shot the drivers,” according to NorthJersey.com.
Christie also announced changes to the rules that govern the transportation of firearms within the state. Previously, the policy allowed residents without a concealed carry license to transport their unloaded, secured firearms to and from hunting grounds or shooting ranges with “reasonably necessary” deviations.
Christie’s proposal explicitly lists examples of such deviations, including “collecting and discharging passengers; purchasing fuel, food and beverages, medication, or other needed supplies; using a restroom; contending with an emergency situation; or driving around a traffic jam.”
While the efforts are obviously a step in the right direction, gun rights groups in New Jersey haven’t been throwing any parties. Scott L. Bach, executive director of the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, described the change to the carry permit standard as a “modest incremental improvement” to an “abomination.”
The reason for his reticence is simple: New Jersey police officers still control the entire approval process, and the pro-Second Amendment community isn’t convinced the new policies will force them to abide by the law.
While the new directives call on State Police “to identify best practices” and for local police to process gun purchase and carry applications “as expeditiously as practicable,” New Jersey Second Amendment Society President Alexander Roubian asked NJTV News, “If [they’re] not following the law to begin with, what is it going to make any difference if the attorney general tells them to do it?”
The NJTV report cited an undercover video taken by the Second Amendment society that shows an Orange Police detective sergeant flat-out denying that New Jersey citizens could obtain concealed carry gun permits (starts at 1:29 in the link above).
At the end of the day, an un-elected state or local police officer still controls the constitutional rights of thousands of New Jersey residents every year. Christie’s policy changes loosen the letter of the law, but New Jerseyans are not likely to see much improvement until the legislature acts or the state imposes sufficient oversight on the concealed carry permit