A federal appeals court has reinstated key parts of New Jersey’s law that prohibits carrying guns in certain parts of the state.
The 2-1 decision from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals allows multiple so-called sensitive places — where New Jersey law bans guns — to take effect as litigation plays out.
Prior to that, U.S. District Judge Renée Marie Bumb blocked much of the state’s sensitive places from taking effect, meaning that guns could be carried in areas where New Jersey law sought to prohibit them.
The latest court order means that carrying guns within 100 feet of public gatherings; nursery schools; pre-schools; zoos; summer camps; public parks; libraries; museums; places where alcohol is served; entertainment facilities; casinos; and health care facilities are prohibited.
Some key parts of the law are still blocked. Restrictions in New Jersey law around carrying guns in vehicles or movie sets, for instance, are still blocked.
On private property that is open to the public — like retail stores — if a property owner does not give express permission that guns are allowed on their premises, people can still carry guns there. But a property owner still has the right to not allow guns.
The liability insurance mandate for concealed carry holders is also still blocked.
The decision is a setback for Garden State gun owners wishing to exercise the right to carry in public.
As a result of the stay, their ability to do so will once again be constrained by portions of a law that a federal judge has already called “plainly unconstitutional.”
“We are extremely gratified that the Third Circuit recognized what we have always said: New Jersey is likely to win this case because our sensitive-places law complies with the Second Amendment,” said Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin. “The Third Circuit correctly stayed the district court’s dangerous injunction that allowed individuals to carry weapons into places like parks and zoos, libraries and museums, bars and casinos, and permitted demonstrations. This is a tremendous win for public safety, and we will continue fighting for our law.”
The Supreme Court appears hesitant to intervene in the burgeoning legal fights over new restrictions passed in response to the June 2022 decision New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen.
The U.S. Supreme Court last year effectively expanded gun carry laws in states like New Jersey, which had severely restricted the right to carry guns outside the home for decades.
In response to that ruling, lawmakers enacted a sweeping overhaul of gun carry laws late last year, part of which blocked guns from being carried in broad swaths of the state that were designated as “sensitive places.”
Thus, gun owners may find themselves unable to carry freely for the foreseeable future.
At the same time, the decision offers a glimmer of hope for gun-rights advocates working to challenge New Jersey’s carry restrictions and others similar to them. The stay order left the law’s most expansive prohibition—the functional ban on licensed carry on all publicly-accessible private property—blocked, suggesting the Third Circuit is suspicious of its legality.
The Third Circuit’s decision is a significant development in the ongoing legal battle over gun control in New Jersey. It remains to be seen whether the Supreme Court will weigh in on the matter, but for now, gun owners in the Garden State will have to continue to navigate a patchwork of restrictions on their Second Amendment rights.
What does this mean for gun owners in New Jersey?
The Third Circuit’s decision means that gun owners in New Jersey will once again be prohibited from carrying guns in a number of sensitive places, including schools, parks, zoos, libraries, museums, and casinos.
This is a significant setback for gun rights advocates, who have argued that the state’s sensitive places law is unconstitutional.
However, the decision does not mean that gun owners in New Jersey are completely out of luck. The law still allows for concealed carry in some places, such as on private property with the owner’s permission. Additionally, the Third Circuit’s decision did not address the law’s requirement that gun owners carry liability insurance, which is still being challenged in court.
It is unclear whether the Supreme Court will weigh in on the matter, but for now, gun owners in New Jersey will have to continue to navigate a patchwork of restrictions on their Second Amendment rights.