A federal judge Monday expanded where people can carry guns in N.J. in the ongoing bid to block a new state ban on guns in sensitive places. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
A federal judge has expanded the number of areas where New Jersey cannot enforce its new gun ban, handing a victory to gun rights advocates who call the new law unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Renée Marie Bumb on Monday issued a temporary restraining order preventing the state from prohibiting gun owners from taking firearms to parks, beaches, recreational areas, and casinos, with Bumb saying plaintiffs face the threat of prosecution for engaging in constitutionally protected conduct
“Plaintiffs have made a strong showing of constitutional injury given their Second Amendment rights as secured by the Fourteenth Amendment,” Bumb wrote in Monday’s order. “Plaintiffs do not allege a bare constitutional deprivation, but that they fear the threat of severe criminal penalties if they choose to exercise their Second Amendment rights.”
Bumb allowed the ban to stand at several other so-called sensitive places named by the state, including playgrounds and youth sporting events. She also allowed it to stand at zoos, airports, movie sets, and medical facilities, saying the advocates challenging the new law failed to prove standing or any urgent need for a temporary restraining order in those places.
Bumb’s order comes three weeks after she blocked the ban, in a separate but related challenge, on guns in vehicles, on private property, at public libraries and museums, in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, and at entertainment facilities like stadiums, concerts, and theaters. The two cases have since been consolidated, with the latest arguments in the case last Thursday in Camden.
Attorney Daniel Schmutter represents gun rights advocates fighting the ban. He celebrated Bumb’s “narrowing interpretation” of sensitive places categories she agreed were too broad, such as multi-use facilities and schools and educational facilities. Under Monday’s decision, for example, schools — where firearms can be banned — do not include places like Sunday schools, businesses that provide martial arts training, or music schools.
“We were very pleased with the judge’s ruling, granting us a temporary restraining order on many of our requests,” Schmutter said. “We look forward to the opportunity to expand that relief at the preliminary injunction stage.”
Arguments for that stage haven’t yet been scheduled.
Scott Bach, executive director of the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs, agreed the ruling paves the way for advocates in their battle to permanently block the new law. Bach’s group is among the plaintiffs in this case.
“This marks the beginning of the end for Gov. Murphy’s blatantly unconstitutional new carry law, which is going down in flames,” Bach said in a statement. “Murphy has clearly demonstrated that constitutional issues are indeed above his pay grade.”
Murphy was widely mocked by conservatives in 2020 when, in response to criticism from Fox News host Tucker Carlson that New Jersey’s COVID-19 restrictions violated the Bill of Rights, Murphy said those issues are “above my pay grade.”
Tyler Jones, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office, said the state will appeal the ruling.
“We are disappointed that the court invalidated common-sense restrictions on the right to carry firearms in public, which are fully consistent with the Second Amendment,” Jones said.
In a statement, Attorney General Matt Platkin called the order “bad for public safety and inconsistent with the Second Amendment.”
“We are disappointed that the court has undermined important and longstanding protections against firearms violence in our public parks and in casinos,” Platkin said. “But these orders remain temporary, and we look forward to pressing our case, including ultimately on appeal.”
Monday’s ruling comes about five weeks after Murphy signed the new law, a response to last summer’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in a New York case that overturned requirements that gun owners prove a need to carry guns outside their homes.
Gun rights advocates challenged the New Jersey ban immediately, arguing the ban made the lawful carrying of arms anywhere in the state effectively impossible.
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