Friday, April 10, 2015

Could Governor Christe Change NJ Gun Law with a Stroke of a Pen?

State laws in the "may issue" states vary quite a bit.  In New York, it appears that the state has to grant a license, or at lease deny one withing a certain time limit, but bureaucratic manuvers make it vary across the State and the time limits are widely ignored.   It is impossible to get a permit in New York City.  In New Jersey, permits are pretty much limited to former police officers, former judges, and the politically connected.  In Hawaii, almost no one gets permits except for a few armed guards. 

Almost all of this is based on vague language in the law that allows the permit granting authority wide "discretion" on who gets permits.  An astute observer in New Jersey, Ryan Cruzan, states his belief that Governor Christie has the authority to alter what has become common practice in the New Jersey, by changing the administrative code. From
At a recent town hall meeting in Whippany, Gov. Chris Christie was asked if he would make N.J. the 48th state to recognize the right to carry a firearm for self-protection. He replied that although he supports the Second Amendment, it would require an act of the legislature to change the law.
N.J. offers a permit to carry a handgun but the statute requires you to demonstrate "justifiable need" to be granted such a permit. The definition of "justifiable need" is so onerous that qualification is nearly impossible. Interestingly, this definition of "justifiable need" is not found in the statute. The definition of "justifiable need" is found in the administrative code which was written and adopted by the executive branch.
That section of the administrative code is currently being readopted by the executive branch with several changes. Gov. Christie has the authority to include a change to allow N.J. residents to exercise the rights that are enjoyed by 12 million safe and responsible permit holders in 47 other states. In doing so, he would shift the balance of power from N.J.'s armed criminals to N.J.'s law abiding residents.

I am not familiar with New Jersey administrative code, so I cannot verify what Mr. Cruzan asserts as correct or not.   Having a little experience in bureaucracies over my 30 year career in the Department of Defense, I can say that bureaucracies are very resistant to change.   A determined executive can make change happen, but it is not easy, and it is not accomplished with a simple stroke of a pen. 

There may be court rulings that depend on those administrative rules, so the bureaucracy will be saying that change should proceed slowly and cautiously.   Bureaucracies are masters of delaying tactics.   I would like to see Governor Christie pursue changes to reform the New Jersey administrative rules to restore some semblance of second amendment rights to the state, but it seems unlikely.   Every time that the Governor has stood up for second amendment rights, it has been while he was being heavily pressured by second amendment supporters.

©2015 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included. Link to Gun Watch


Anonymous said...

Mr Weingarten.... I think you need to pay a visit to our state....

Ryan Cruzan said...

The NJ Administrative Code that blocks the issuing of permits came from a 1970 NJ court case (Siccardi). In that case, NJ was forced to defend it's restrictive permitting system. The NJ court ruled that (1) The 2nd Amendment does not guarantee an indivvidual right and (2) The 2nd Amendment restricts the federal government from infringing, not state governments. The language in the statute comes from the decision in this case - almost word for word.

But... since 1970, we've had Heller v. DC in 2008 where SCOTUS ruled that the 2A is an individual right and McDonald v. Chicago in 2010 where SCOTUS ruled that it applies to the states.

The justification for NJ's no-issue permitting system no longer holds water.

-Ryan Cruzan

Dean Weingarten said...

Thank you for the resources.