On January 9, 2023, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, Camden Vicinage, issued its opinion of the case of Koons v. Reynolds. The principal issue concerned the constitutionality of a New Jersey law that issued in the wake of the United States Supreme Court case in Bruen. Bruen did away with the requirement that permit-to-carry handgun applicants in New Jersey show a “justifiable need” before a permit could issue. The law at issue prohibited concealed handguns in “sensitive places” and restricted carrying firearms in vehicles.
Judge Bumb wrote for the Court as follows: For the reasons set forth below, the motion for a temporary restraining order will be GRANTED, and the Court will RESERVE its decision on the motion for a preliminary injunction. This case concerns a constitutional challenge on Second and Fourteenth Amendment grounds to newly enacted New Jersey legislation that restricts the possession of a firearm in any location classified by the state legislature as a “sensitive place” and certain other restrictions on carrying functional firearms in vehicles. Plaintiffs, who have permits from the State of New Jersey to conceal carry handguns, contend that just until a few short weeks ago, persons in this state with a permit were generally free to carry a handgun “as they went about their business,” with limited exceptions for specific locations including schools, colleges, universities, other educational institutions, state parks, casinos, and any “federal facility” as such term is defined by applicable federal law.
The New Jersey legislation at issue here was enacted in response to the United States Supreme Court decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n, Inc. v. Bruen, holding “that the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.” 597 U.S. , 142 S. Ct. 2111, 2122 (2022). The Bruen Court struck down a New York statute that required an applicant for a permit to carry a handgun to demonstrate “proper cause,” and, in doing so, acknowledged the unconstitutionality of analogous statutes in other states that required a “showing of some additional special need,” such as New Jersey’s law that required an applicant to show “justifiable need” for a permit to carry. Id. at 2124 n.2.
Many serious criminal cases are likely to arise out of the lack of clarity in the laws concerning the specific locations where permits to carry do not apply. Aside from the ambiguity regarding “federal facilities”, questions arise regarding the applicable boundaries of educational institutions.