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NJ Big Picture 2A Update








Gun Stores & NICS: Reopened

Fingerprinting: Reopened

Permit Processing by Towns: Mixed

Ranges: Closed. Cautious About Timing of Legal Challenge


April 10, 2020.  It has been an unprecedented time the last several weeks, as NJ officials have tried to use Coronavirus as an excuse to shut down the Second Amendment.  Here’s an update on the big picture of where everything stands:

Gun Stores & NICS: Reopened.  By executive action on March 21, Governor Murphy shut down gun stores, NICS, and all ranges in the state, preventing millions of law-abiding citizens from obtaining firearms and ammunition, and practicing with firearms.  ANJRPC immediately sued to reopen gun stores and NICS.  The Trump Administration then issued a national guideline that gun stores should be deemed “essential” and remain open.  Under pressure, and with reluctance, Murphy reversed himself and reopened gun stores and NICS, restoring the ability to purchase firearms.  As of the date of this email, gun stores and NICS remain open.

Fingerprinting: Reopened.  Following Murphy’s reopening of gun stores and NICS, ANJRPC began receiving reports that NJ’s electronic fingerprinting contractor was singling out gun permit applicants and refusing to take prints from them. ANJRPC interceded with the Murphy Administration and was told the issue would be addressed.  When ANJRPC asked for a written directive confirming this, the administration declined to provide one.  We therefore waited until now (after receiving multiple confirmations from gun owners who were actually fingerprinted) to confirm that, as of the date of this email, firearms applicant electronic fingerprinting has been restored with the state’s contractor.

Permit Processing by Towns: Mixed. Even before Murphy’s executive order was announced, ANJRPC was engaged with multiple towns that had unilaterally and unlawfully shut down firearms permitting activity.  Most towns backed down when ANJRPC counsel confronted them. Town-by-town activity was then temporarily mooted by Murphy’s executive order closing gun stores and NICS, until Murphy reversed himself and reopened them.  Since then, ANJRPC has been flooded with new reports of unlawful town permitting practices, and ANJRPC is addressing them town-by-town.

Ranges: Closed. Cautious About Timing of Legal Challenge. Gov. Murphy has refused to reopen ranges, even after the Trump Administration issued a national guideline that ranges should remain open as “essential.”  ANJRPC has had extensive discussion with the Murphy Administration about reopening ranges subject to stringent social distancing requirements (much more stringent than those imposed on other “essential” businesses that remain open), but to no avail.

This makes absolutely no sense – individuals who purchase guns need to be able to train with them to ensure they can use them safely and effectively. And ranges clearly can be operated in a safe and sanitary manner.

We understand that gun owners and gun ranges are angry and frustrated by the Murphy Administration’s insistence on keeping ranges closed – and we at ANJRPC are angry and frustrated by it, too. It is extremely tempting to quickly file a lawsuit in anger seeking to stop this blatantly unconstitutional practice. But after thinking it through exhaustively with our counsel, we have concluded that the wisest course at the current time is to resist that temptation.

We do not doubt the existence of a constitutional right to firearms training on a range.  But the height of a worldwide pandemic could be the worst time to ask the courts to recognize that right. Unlike with the right to acquire a firearm, the middle-level federal court here has not yet recognized a right to train with a firearm. And there is a very real risk that the current environment could cloud the court’s judgement and lead it to find that there is no such right. Courts at all levels – including the U.S. Supreme Court -- have historically made some very questionable decisions during times of extreme national emergency.

For these reasons, we believe that this precise moment – at the peak of an unprecedented worldwide public health crisis – is the worst moment to legally challenge Murphy’s range ban. At this precise moment, the risk is simply too great of opening a “Pandora’s Box” and establishing a terrible precedent that could embolden Murphy to extend his draconian policies beyond the current crisis and into normal times.

That being said, circumstances are changing daily, and the moment may come – soon – when ANJRPC and its counsel can seize a good window of opportunity to act.

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