On December 22, 2023, a three-judge appellate panel decided the Bergen County case of In the Matter of the Appeal of the Denial of R.W.T.’s Application. The principal issue under N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3 concerned whether Petitioner could be denied a gun permit based on false statements in his application.
Judge Susswein wrote for the Court in relevant part: Petitioner argues the falsification disqualification provision runs afoul of Bruen because “at the time of our Nation’s founding, a citizen could be the biggest liar in the country, yet still enjoy the right to keep and bear arms.” We note at the outset that petitioner’s framing of the argument misconstrues the falsification disqualification feature. The provision does not account for, much less depend on, the applicant’s reputation for veracity, but rather looks at the truthfulness of the information within the four corners of the application. Although a falsification must be made knowingly to trigger disqualification, this statutory provision focuses on the application, not the applicant.
After carefully reviewing the text and underlying rationale of Bruen, we hold the falsification disqualification provision survives Second Amendment scrutiny notwithstanding that we cannot point to a historical analogue for it. We need not cite historical precursors in this instance because the Bruen Court has already clarified that “shall-issue” licensing regimes are permitted under the Second Amendment so long as they contain “narrow, objective, and definitive standards to guide officials in determining whether applicants were ‘in fact, “law-abiding, responsible citizens.”‘” State v. Wade, (App. Div. 2023) (quoting Bruen, 142 S. Ct. at 2138 n.9), leave to appeal denied, ___ N.J. ___ (2023). The Bruen Court recognized forty-three states have shall-issue licensing regimes, stressing that “nothing in our analysis should be interpreted to suggest the unconstitutionality of those regimes.” Bruen, 142 S. Ct. at 2138 n.9; see Bruen, 142 S. Ct. at 2161 (Kavanaugh, J., concurring) (“The Court’s decision does not prohibit States from imposing licensing requirements for carrying a handgun for self-defense.”); see also M.U., (“Bruen emphasized that its holdings did not effectuate a wholesale invalidation of the various states’ gun licensing and permit systems.”).
To determine whether a falsification was made knowingly, courts would almost certainly have to conduct a hearing. At that hearing, the applicant could demonstrate that he made an honest mistake in providing false information.