Handgun Permit-To-Carry Applications (Part 1)

by | Mar 7, 2023 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

The following Administrative Directive 14-22 was issued by Director Glenn Grant to assignment judges and trial court administrators in New Jersey. It provides for procedures based on recent legislation which, in part, removes the Judiciary from the initial decision-making process for handgun permit applications. It supersedes Directive 06-19 and became effective on December 22, 2022.

Governor Murphy signed A-4769 into law (L. 2022, c. __), amending a number of New Jersey firearms statutes and addresses issues raised in the United States Supreme Court’s decision in N.Y. State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, 142 S. Ct. 2111 (2022). The enactment is effective immediately. In part, it removes the Judiciary from the initial decision-making process for applications for permits to carry a handgun.

This Directive, which supersedes Directive #06-19, is intended to establish uniformity in how the vicinages handle appeals from law enforcement’s denial of firearms identification cards, handgun purchase permits, and permits to carry a handgun. New Jersey law previously required applicants to submit a written certification of “justifiable need” to the reviewing law enforcement officer as part of their application for a permit to carry. If approved by law enforcement, the application would then be presented to the Superior Court for action by a judge.

So long as the applicant demonstrated, among other things, a “justifiable need” to carry a handgun in accordance with the statute, the judge would approve the application and issue the permit. Although New Jersey was not a party in Bruen, the U.S. Supreme Court likened New Jersey’s requirements for permits to carry to those of New York, which the Court deemed to be unconstitutional. Bruen thus eliminated New Jersey’s “justifiable need” requirement, which was a significant factor, but not the only factor, that New Jersey Courts considered in acting on applications for permits to carry a handgun. The amendments to N.J.S.A. 2C:58-4 adopted in L. 2022, c. __, both eliminate the “justifiable need” requirement and remove the court from the decision-making and issuance process for applications for permits to carry.

Pursuant to the new law, which, as noted, is effective immediately, determinations on applications for permits to carry a handgun will no longer be made by the court; law enforcement alone will receive, investigate, and determine all permit to carry applications. Any applications for a permit to carry a handgun currently pending before the Superior Court as of today are to be decided and, if approved, issued by the court. The new law allows judges to rely on the prior approval by law enforcement as the basis for approving these pending applications. L. 2022, c. __.

The new law would appear to streamline the permit-to-carry approval process. Nevertheless, applications in Ocean and Monmouth County are routinely not decided within the 60-day period required by statute.