New Jersey lawmakers introduced a measure Thursday that goes even further than New York’s gun licensing package, putting it on track to tighten what are already some of the strictest gun laws in the country.
Officials said the legislation is a direct response to a U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this year striking down New York’s prior concealed carry law, which was among the most restrictive in the nation. Beyond New York, the ruling cast doubt on laws in New Jersey and a handful of other states with extensive requirements to obtain a gun carry permit. Garden State lawmakers said the new measure will protect New Jerseyans from violence without violating the Supreme Court’s decision.
“Our way of life is being threatened, essentially, by certain things that have gone on in the federal government,” Senate President Nick Scutari said at a press conference Thursday. “We need to address that through the legislation we’re dropping today.”
As a gun owner, bill sponsor Joe Danielsen said this legislation will change “very little” for responsible, law-abiding citizens like him.
“This bill’s putting safe people with safe guns in safe places in a safe manner,” he said. “This bill is more about the word safe than it is about the word gun.”
The 31-page bill draft outlines multiple new criteria for those who want to have their guns on them outside their homes. Like New York’s new law, the measure would prohibit firearm possession in a long list of “sensitive” locations, including schools, parks, and places where alcohol is sold. It would also require applicants for concealed carry permits to submit character references and complete safety training.
If passed into law, New Jersey would be the first state in the country to require concealed carry permit holders to buy liability insurance. New York lawmakers introduced a similar measure several years ago, which never made it out of committee. San Jose, California enacted a local ordinance earlier this year, which has already been challenged in court. Mark Oliva, a spokesperson for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, called the insurance requirement “dubious at best,” equating it to a poll tax.
New Jersey Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin told WNYC’s "Brian Lehrer Show" that the insurance requirement would work similarly to driver’s insurance.
“You have to get a license to operate the vehicle. You then are permitted to operate it. But if your conduct is negligent and you cause injury to somebody else, then you’re going to be required to have insurance to protect the person that you injured,” he said. “So, too, here with guns.”
Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have found that states that have eased their concealed carry laws — making it easier for people to walk around with guns — have experienced increases in rates of gun assaults and homicides as well as shootings by law enforcement. A recent analysis of 2020 data from the Violence Policy Center found that New Jersey, which has some of the strictest gun regulations and lowest levels of gun ownership in the U.S., had the lowest suicide rate of any state in the country. States with the highest rates of gun ownership and the loosest gun laws had the highest suicide rates.
Oliva doubted that the bill would actually make people safer. Rather, he said it would make it harder for law-abiding citizens to defend themselves when law enforcement cannot.
He also predicted that the proposal would face legal challenges if signed into law, calling it “unconstitutional on its face.”
“It does seem that there is a growing blatant disregard for the court precedent when it comes to those who have been elected to positions to write our laws,” Oliva said.