TRENTON – Legislative leaders unveiled a bill Thursday they say would establish New Jersey as the nation’s toughest when it comes to concealed-carry laws, in response to a Supreme Court decision four months ago that invalidated prior restrictions.

The bill appears to be on the fast track, at least in the Assembly, where it is due for a committee hearing Monday and a final vote on Oct. 27.

It will move more slowly than that in the Senate though has the support of Senate President Nicholas Scutari, D-Union. Scutari, who is a gun owner, said the bill strikes the right balance between the court’s decision and the interests of a state that has long advocated for gun-control measures.

“My personal belief is that our way of life is being threatened essentially by certain things that have gone on in the federal government, and we need to address that,” Scutari said.

What's in the bill

The bill eliminates the now-obsolete justifiable need standard for a carry permit but also would:

  • Expand the vetting for permit applicants by increasing the number of nonfamily members who must vouch for them to five from three and adding disqualifications such as “character of temperament” and past violations of restraining orders and convictions. Applications would have 90 days to be approved, up from the current 60 days, which often isn’t followed.
  • Prohibit people from carrying handguns in around two dozen categories of places, including schools, government buildings, polling places, bars and restaurants, theaters, sports arenas, parks, airports, casinos and childcare facilities.
  • Require property owners to opt-in to allow people to carry guns on their premises, rather than opt-out.
  • Require gun safety training, including a gun range qualification, for permit holders.
  • Establish new insurance requirements for handgun owners: $100,000 of coverage for the injury or death of one person, $300,000 for the injury or death of multiple people in any one incident and $25,000 for property damage.
  • Increase permitting fees to $25 from $2 for a firearm purchaser identification card and to $50 from $5 for a permit to purchase a handgun. The application fee for a permit to carry a handgun would be $200.
  • Direct some of the revenue from the fees to the Victims of Crime Compensation Office.

To read the proposal in its entirety, click here.

Sen. Ed Durr, R-Gloucester, said Democrats are openly hostile to the Second Amendment and that “it is clear their intent” is to override the Constitution and Supreme Court. He said protection public safety includes protecting individual right to self-defense.

“Let’s be real. Criminals are the problem, not law-abiding citizens who have rights,” Durr said. “The bad guys won’t go out and buy gun insurance before they carjack a family or shoot up a neighborhood.”

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, said gun safety does not conflict with safe gun ownership.

“We’re keeping New Jersey at the fore of the national gun violence prevention,” said Coughlin, who said the Supreme Court made the wrong decision in the gun case in June. “Today, we’re introducing what will stand as the nation’s strongest measure concerned concealed carry.”

“This bill is putting safe people with safe guns into safe places in a safe manner,” said Assemblyman Joe Danielsen, D-Somerset, who is a gun owner. “This bill is more about the word safe than it is about the word gun.”

Assemblyman Joe Danielsen (Michael Symons/Townsquare Media NJ)
Assemblyman Joe Danielsen (Michael Symons/Townsquare Media NJ)
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Coughlin, referencing what Scutari said were State Police statistics, said there have been 300,000 applications for concealed-carry permits in New Jersey since June.

Legislative leaders said they expect the legislation will be challenged in court after its approval and are prepared to vigorously defend it.

At least one gun-rights group is already anticipating such a lawsuit.

“These attacks by New Jersey lawmakers are a big middle finger to the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Scott Bach, director of the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs. "We look forward to overturning these measures in court and forcing the state to pay our legal fees.”

Lauren Knighton, a volunteer with the New Jersey chapter of Moms Demand Action, said states like New Jersey must lead by example in enacting gun laws so that people don’t fear being shot at school, on trains or at concerts.

“We have a right to send our kids to school, ride the train, attend a concert without the fear of being shot,” Knighton said. “We don’t need thoughts and prayers or political platitudes. We need tangible solutions and meaningful action on gun safety.”

Michael Symons is the Statehouse bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com

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