The state of New Jersey has denied a concealed carry permit to a Lieutenant Colonel who holds a Top Secret clearance and works at a U.S. Army arsenal that was recently the target of a terrorist attack.
Lt. Col. Terry S. Russell of the United States Army applied for a concealed carry permit almost one year ago, according to the National Review. He was denied by Oceanport Police Chief Daniel W. Barcus because he failed to show “justifiable need,” despite the fact that, as Russell explained in his application,
1) “service members, including family members, have been specifically targeted by radical extremist” groups;
2) the U.S. military has “verified” that “ISIS has placed a significant emphasis to actively identify US military personnel”; and
3) that Picatinny Arsenal itself (where Russell works) had been evacuated recently “due to the discovery of a dry run attempt to drive a Vehicle Borne Improved Explosive Device onto Post.”
The Police Chief didn’t buy it.
“There are no specific threats or previous attacks on you,” Barcus wrote in his denial letter, and neither is there any “special danger to your life that cannot be avoided by means other than by issuance of a permit to carry a handgun.”
Russell brought the case to court, where Superior Court Judge Joseph Oxley sided with Barcus. “Although there may have been threats received at the Picatinny Arsenal,” Monmouth County prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni wrote, “none of these threats appear to specifically relate to this applicant — he is in no different position than any other person who is assigned to that facility.”
If, as the National Review puts it, “a high-target military-arms expert” is not eligible for a concealed carry permit in New Jersey, who precisely is? The casual dismissal of the Oceanport Police Department and the narrow interpretation of “justifiable need” by the New Jersey Courts has effectively denied a U.S. service member his constitutional rights.
This is precisely the kind of ruling New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie aimed to stop with his recent set of executive orders. The new policies change the language governing carry permits to allow New Jersey residents to obtain a permit if they can prove a “serious threat” to their person. The previous language forced citizens like Russell to prove “specific threats or previous attacks” before being approved.
Under the new language, Russell has a much better chance of being granted a permit. His position as a Project Manager for the Army’s Small Arms Program exposes him to a serious threat of a terrorist attack, as does his Top Secret (TS) Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) clearance.
But knowing New Jersey’s draconian gun laws and the propensity of state judges to uphold them, one can never really be certain.