Finally, the Court has yet another constitutional concern in addition to the above challenges that the individual Plaintiffs raise. The below scenario posed by the Court at oral argument demonstrates the cumulative effect of the legislation: to make it so unwieldy and burdensome for a permit holder to exercise his constitutional right to carry a firearm: THE COURT: And so the State envisions it [Chapter 131] that if someone with a concealed carry permit wakes up and plans his day, that . . . he puts the firearm in the trunk. He goes to his cousin who doesn’t want firearms. He leaves it in the trunk. He then goes to the local market that permits firearms. He goes and he gets it out of the trunk, puts it together in public view, citizens see. Citizens are going to get alarmed. Perhaps he’s brandishing the weapon, one might argue. And then goes to the local market, then he comes back out, he then brandishes the weapon, one could argue, puts it into the trunk and goes to another establishment where he’s not quite sure, so he puts it in the trunk and then goes up, gets the expressed consent, yes, that’s fine, goes back to his trunk, puts the firearm, assembles the firearm and then goes about and reenters the property. That’s how the State envisions the day in the life of a gun owner?
Of note, the State conceded at oral argument that the provision restricting functional firearms in vehicles did infringe in some sense the “immediate ability to have that firearm loaded and on you.” [Tr. at 83.] The Court appreciates the State’s candor, and finds that such conduct is clearly protected by the Second Amendment, which at its core protects the right to self-defense. Bruen, 142 S. Ct. at 2122.
As Plaintiffs lament, the challenged provisions force a person permitted to carry a firearm in New Jersey to “navigate a ‘veritable minefield.’” [Pls’. Br. at 12.] Their view is a legitimate one. The Court knows of no constitutional right that requires this much guesswork by individuals wanting to exercise such right.
Plaintiffs cannot decipher what constitutes a “sensitive place,” and so they have abandoned their constitutional right to bear arms out of fear of criminal penalty. Relatedly, Plaintiffs argue that these provisions sweep so broadly that the legislation “effectively shuts off most public areas from carrying for self-defense.” [Pls.’ Br. at 30.] In the final analysis, at some point on the line, when a constitutional right becomes so burdensome or unwieldy to exercise, it is, in effect, no longer a constitutional right. Plaintiffs have made a convincing case that this legislation has reached that point. While the State presses that it has legitimate societal reasons for its legislation, it bears repeating that this is an arena into which this Court cannot venture. Bruen, 142 S. Ct. at 2129 (“the Second Amendment does not permit . . . ‘judges to assess the cost and benefits of firearms restrictions’”) (citation omitted).
It is not the role of this Court to either defer to the Legislature or to pass judgment on the wisdom of the firearms restrictions. Accordingly, for this reason as well, Plaintiffs have met their burden in showing that they are likely to succeed on the merits of their constitutional challenges to the foregoing provisions.
The “inoperable” requirement for carrying firearms in the trunk of a vehicle may be the most ridiculous aspect of the legislation at issue. Judge Bumb did an excellent job illustrating its absurdities with her questions at oral argument.