A day after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that likely makes it easier to carry a gun, Gov. Phil Murphy responded Friday by calling for New Jersey to prohibit firearms in a wide array of “sensitive” places — including hospitals, public transit, stadiums, bars, and courthouses — as a safety precaution.
Murphy, a Democrat who has long been a proponent of tough gun laws, signed an executive order directing state departments and agencies to review all statutes, rules, and regulations to see “what steps they can take to prevent gun violence.” That includes whether they can designate certain areas as “gun-free” and regulate how firearms are “carried, transported, or conveyed.”
Speaking at a news conference at his office in Trenton, the governor announced he’ll also work with the Democratic-controlled state Legislature on a measure to significantly expand the number of locations in New Jersey where carrying guns isn’t allowed.
Top lawmakers are currently crafting a draft of the bill, legislative sources told NJ Advance Media, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The nation’s highest court on Thursday struck down New York’s concealed carry law, which could have wide-reaching effects in New Jersey, a state with a similar law and some of the strictest gun-control measures in the country.
While the decision is “tragic and misguided,” Murphy said, “we must live with it.”
“But that won’t stop us from doing everything in our power to protect our communities and our residents, consistent with this opinion,” he added.
Col. Patrick Callahan, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, said Friday the state is expecting a “dramatic influx” of people seeking permits to carry a gun — maybe as many as 200,000 more applications.
Acting state Attorney General Matthew Platkin on Friday issued a directive to law enforcement agencies in the state stressing that while the ruling invalidates New Jersey’s requirement that you must a “justifiable need” to carry a gun, people still cannot carry a firearm in the state without a permit.
“Allow me to repeated that just so I’m clear: You cannot carry a firearm in New Jersey without a permit. Period,” Platkin said at Friday’s event. “There is nothing in yesterday’s decision that changes that.”
The rest of New Jersey’s permitting process will also remain in place, he said.
Another action the state may take is requiring people who carry guns to purchase liability insurance, just as they do with cars, Platkin said.
In its 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that New York’s law violated the 14th Amendment “by preventing law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms in public for self-defense.” Supporters of the ruling called it a victory for freedom. Some contend criminals ignore gun laws and now citizens will be able to better protect themselves.
A little more than an hour before Murphy’s event Friday, the court also overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that made abortion legal across the U.S. (Murphy signed a law in January making sure abortion remains legal in New Jersey despite such a decision.)
“What a week,” the governor said as he took the podium Friday.
Murphy blamed both rulings on the Supreme Court’s “right-wing majority.” He and other officials suggested shootings would increase because of the gun decision.
”Allowing ordinary citizens to carry concealed weapons into stores and malls, on mass transit, in daycare centers and hospitals, in polling places, or in bars and restaurants does not make us safer,” Murphy said. “And it does not make our police safer as they do their jobs.”
”A right to carry a concealed weapon is, in actuality, a recipe for tragedy,” he added.
“Moreover, it is not in line with our long-standing New Jersey values,” the governor continued. “Values which have always supported the 2nd Amendment through carefully crafted and equally as carefully enforced laws to ensure that guns do not needlessly proliferate in our communities.”
LIMITING WHERE GUNS ARE ALLOWED
Murphy noted the Supreme Court “did affirm the longstanding rules that have prohibited the carrying of firearms in certain sensitive locations, such as schools and government buildings.”
He said because New Jersey has had strict limits on carrying firearms, there are actually “very few” in the state where carrying guns is illegal. (Schools are one such place.)
“Going forward, this is no longer tenable,” he said.
Thus, Murphy said he’s pushing for a bill that would bar guns in places with a “high density of people,” such as stadiums, arenas, amusement parks, bars and restaurants where alcohol is served, and public transit.
He said the proposal should also cover places with “vulnerable populations,” such as daycare and child care centers, hospitals, health care centers, and nursing homes. Plus, he said, it should protect places where governmental and First Amendment-protected activities occur, such as government buildings, polling places, courthouses, and police stations.
Plus, Murphy said the measure should set a rule that guns cannot be carried onto private property unless the property owner gives you permission. That, he said, includes private homes, houses of worship, and shopping malls.
“That will protect homeowners and businesses who do not want firearms to proliferate in their homes and stores, while fully respecting everyone’s private property rights,” he said.
In its decision, the Supreme Court said courts “can use analogies to ‘longstanding’ ‘laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings’ to determine whether modern regulations are constitutionally permissible.” But, the court added, “there is no historical basis for New York to effectively declare the island of Manhattan a ‘sensitive place’ simply because it is crowded and protected generally by the New York City Police Department.”
The state Senate and Assembly — both controlled by Democrats — have to pass any such bill before Murphy could sign it into law.
Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, endorsed the move Friday, saying the Supreme Court’s decision is “a radical departure from a century of established law and basic common sense gun safety.”
“We cannot let anything or anyone stand in the way of people being safe in their houses of worship, at the grocery store, concerts, sporting events, and in public spaces in New Jersey,” Coughlin said in a statement to NJ Advance Media. “We will work with the Governor in the interest of safeguarding people from gun violence.”
Murphy said he has not yet determined if he will call in the Legislature for a special session to vote on the proposal.
“I’m confident we’ll make progress in a timely matter,” he said.
A top Republican lawmaker dismissed Murphy’s moves as a “knee-jerk reaction.” Assembly Minority Leader John DiMaio, R-Warren, said ”Democrats don’t appear to trust honest law-abiding citizens, and are responding to the Supreme Court’s ruling as if the average gun owner is a criminal.”
“Even Gov. Murphy will tell you gun violence in New Jersey is because of illegal gun owners, not people who exercise Second Amendment rights,” DiMaio said. “And those rights will still need to be exercised in New Jersey.”
NEW JERSEY’S GUN LAWS
New Jersey is one of eight states that have “may issue” concealed carry permitting processes. An applicant can be denied such a permit if they have not shown a “justifiable need” to carry a weapon publicly, which is defined as “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 means other than by issuance of a permit to carry a handgun.”
That has meant few people aside from current and retired law enforcement and private security guards are able to obtain carry permits in the Garden State.
Gun rights advocates have long argued the process is onerous ad violates the Second Amendment because it strictly limits who has the right to carry a firearm in public.
Some Republican lawmakers and gun-rights advocates have said they hope the ruling will lead more of New Jersey’s firearm laws being challenged in court.
This all comes as the Legislature is advancing a number of bills that would further tighten New Jersey’s gun laws. That includes proposals that would mandate people receive firearm training to get a gun permit in New Jersey, ban .50 caliber rifles, require micro-stamping technology, have new residents coming from other states register firearms, regulate handgun ammunition, make it easier to sue gun manufacturers and dealers over gun crimes, limit body armor, and crack down on ghost guns in the state.
Murphy has called for many of those proposals for more than a year, and he has amplified that message after the recent mass shootings in Buffalo and Texas.
He said Friday “the need for the measures is greater than ever.”
“New Jersey has one of the nation’s lowest rates of gun violence not because we allow for unlimited guns on our streets, but because we have taken smart actions to ensure they stay out of the wrong hands and out of places where they don’t belong,” the governor said. “And we will continue to do so.”
MORE: Bills to further tighten N.J. gun laws move forward as Supreme Court ruling casts a shadow
There is concern, however, lawmakers will now pause to consider whether it’s worth passing the bills if they will be challenged in court because of the Supreme Court decision. State Sen. Joseph Cryan, D-Union, a main sponsor of several of the measure, said Thursday said he expects legislators to examine “the pitfalls” before moving forward next week with votes.
But Platkin said the Supreme Court’s ruling “left a lot of gray.”
“We believe every gun law that we have, and every gun law that the governor and the legislature are considering now, is entirely defensible under the 2nd Amendment, including under (Thursday’s) decision,” the acting attorney general said.
‘ARE YOU HAPPY?’
Murphy ended Friday’s event with a message to people who voted for former President Donald Trump, the Republican who appointed three conservative justices to the Supreme Court, tilting its ideology.
“I do want to speak to the folks who in 2016 voted for president because they wanted to shake things up,” said the governor, considered a potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2024 if President Joe Biden does not run for re-election.
“I want to ask you: Are you happy?” Murphy added. “A woman is now no longer protected. … I hope you’re happy that police are now more at risk.”
“Elections have consequences,” he continued. “And sadly, we are living with the carnage of those consequences the last two days.”
Murphy also urged people to vote in November’s midterm elections.
“To everybody out there: Get off your rear end,” he said. “Vote, vote, vote.”
NJ Advance Media staff writers Ted Sherman and S.P. Sullivan contributed to this report.
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