TRENTON — Two bills to reverse changes to New Jersey’s application process for handgun permits passed the state Assembly Thursday over objections from the Republican caucus. The bills would revert the standard for residents to carry a handgun back to specific, demonstrable threats against their life. Recent regulatory changes changed those guidelines to include “generalized fears or concerns.”
One of the bills, a concurrent resolution to roll back the changes, passed 46-29 with one abstention. A second to codify “justifiable need” in legislation instead of state regulations alone passed 47-28.
Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21) spoke against the bills on the floor, saying that they would leave residents with reason to fear for their safety vulnerable if they do not have documentation of specific threats.
“That type of language is common sense,” Bramnick said. “When there’s an ‘urgent necessity,’ it’s probably too late by the time you got it to the court. An example would be a woman who understands that the former husband or batterer is a threat to her, but she can’t be specific in terms of a note or a recording, we are simply allowing someone to say to a judge ‘There is a serious threat.'”
“We are talking about giving the judge some latitude here.”
In April, the state Attorney General announced the regulatory changes, which expanded “justifiable need” to include threats that ”are not directed specifically at an individual but which establish more than mere generalized fears or concerns.”
Critics like Senator Loretta Weinberg (D-37), who sponsored the Senate version of today’s bill to declare the changes counter to the original intentions of the statute and roll them back, has argued that the standard of “generalized fears or concerns” would lead to an influx of guns in already high-crime areas.
Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-6), sponsor of both bills, made a similar argument in his statement after the vote.
“Given the correlation between gun ownership rates and firearm homicide rates, allowing more people to carry handguns is not a smart approach to increasing public safety,” Greenwald wrote. “Our state’s focus needs to be on finding responsible, commonsense ways to reduce gun violence and make communities safer, not making it easier for weapons to proliferate New Jersey neighborhoods.”
Freshmen Assembly members Joanne Downey and Eric Houghtaling (both D-11) also served as primary sponsors.
Residents rarely succeed in securing a permit, with most going to former police officers and armed security guards. The bill now goes to Governor Chris Christie, who requested the changes after the murder of a Berlin Township woman last year.