The National Rifle Association, along with its state affiliate, the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs, filed a lawsuit this week in federal court alleging that New Jersey’s concealed carry requirements violate the Second and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Specifically, the suit argues that New Jersey’s requirement that residents prove a “justifiable need” in order to obtain a concealed carry permit violates the Constitution’s guarantee of the right to “bear” firearms outside the home.
“It’s outrageous that law-abiding people are being denied their right to self-defense by arbitrary means,” said Amy Hunter, a spokeswoman for the NRA, in a press statement. “Statistics show that self-defense situations come up quickly and without warning. Time and time again, we hear stories about good people who have saved lives because they were carrying a firearm. The state of New Jersey has no reason to deny law-abiding citizens their constitutional rights.”
As one of nine “may-issue” states, New Jersey officials require applicants for concealed carry permits to demonstrate that they have a special need to carry a firearm for self-defense.
According to New Jersey law, applicants must “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.”
The NRA’s lawsuit contends that this requirement effectively bans New Jersey residents from carrying handguns.
“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,” the lawsuit states.
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The individual plaintiffs in the lawsuit all passed the necessary background checks to obtain permits but were denied or told not to bother applying. One of the plaintiffs even satisfied all the requirements to buy and sell firearms, but he was told by his local police department to not bother submitting a concealed carry application because he would be denied for lack of “justifiable need.”
The NRA’s lawsuit is only one of several suits challenging restrictive gun control regimes in states around the country. The Second Amendment Foundation announced last week their plans to sue Maryland over its “assault weapons” ban and Washington over its slate of anti-gun measures.
All lawsuits are likely designed with an eye towards the U.S. Supreme Court. The court has refused for a decade to take any major gun rights cases, but the addition of Justice Amy Coney Barrett means the status quo could change. With favorable Supreme Court rulings, state gun control laws that restrict ownership of firearms and where they can be carried could be struck down.