Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision that significantly undermines an important New Jersey law that has kept our residents from the threat of gun violence for decades. Make no mistake: by dramatically expanding the number of New Jersey residents who will be permitted to carry a firearm, the majority of the Court is enabling violence in our communities.
But despite this reckless decision, a wide range of tools remain available to us to protect our residents from the epidemic of gun violence. As the state’s chief law enforcement officer, I am committed to using them.
But first consider the law that the Court inexplicably struck down. For more than a century, states like New Jersey limited who could carry guns in public to individuals with a genuine self-defense need for doing so. In New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, the Court held that the states could no longer maintain this requirement.
The Supreme Court’s opinion in Bruen could hardly have come at a worse time. Our country is enduring of a national scourge of gun violence with near-constant reports of deadly mass shootings in our schools, houses of worship, and other public places. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s decision will mean that more people will carry guns in public, even without a demonstrated self-defense need to do so. From bar fights to road rage incidents, this decision increases the risk that more confrontations in public will turn violent. To make matters worse, the Supreme Court’s decision will endanger our law enforcement officers by increasing the risk they face from routine interactions.
I will not sugarcoat the damage caused by the Bruen decision. These laws had significant support from law enforcement and public safety experts. The Supreme Court ignored their perspectives and disregarded the informed decisions made by democratically elected officials across the country, who have recognized that not all states are created equal when it comes to public carry of firearms. After all, what works in rural Wyoming may not work in New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the country, or in urban centers like Camden or Jersey City.
To be clear: even in the wake of the Bruen decision, everyone still needs a permit to carry a firearm in New Jersey. Although applicants no longer have to show a genuine and personal self-defense need to carry a weapon in public, individuals must still go through background checks by law enforcement before they can do so. That is why the day after the Supreme Court’s decision, I issued a directive to all New Jersey law enforcement agencies reiterating the other requirements for getting a public carry permit that still apply.
That is not all we are doing to protect residents from the dangerous of firearm violence in public. As the Supreme Court recognized in Bruen, there is a long history of states adopting laws to ban individuals from carrying weapons into particularly sensitive locations. Airports, government buildings, courthouses, and schools are just some obvious examples. To keep New Jerseyans safe, I stand behind Gov. Phil Murphy’s call to expand the number of places where firearms cannot be carried in New Jersey — to avoid introducing firearms into some of our most crowded or vulnerable spaces. And I commend the Legislature’s commitment to advancing our statewide efforts to prevent gun violence.
Protecting our residents goes deeper than limiting guns in public. Our strict, commonsense firearms safety laws work, and save lives. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, New Jersey has the third-lowest rates of firearm deaths in the country. Our rates of gun violence are lower than other states because of these laws.
And thanks to Murphy’s strong leadership on firearm safety, this week the Legislature passed a suite of bills he has championed for the past year that will increase the firearm safety measures we have in our atate, from expanding firearms training, to promoting micro stamping technology that can help law enforcement identify perpetrators of gun violence, to enacting a public nuisance law that will allow my office to take action against firearm companies that violate New Jersey law. With the governor’s signature on these bills, the path to a safer New Jersey will become clearer.
Indeed, our enforcement efforts will be continue to be comprehensive. We will continue to utilize the criminal and civil enforcement tools at our disposal to ensure that the perpetrators of gun violence are brought to justice. And we will also use all available statutory tools to go after the traffickers who bring guns into New Jersey from states with too-lax gun safety measures.
And we will stand up for our commonsense firearm safety measures, too. The opinion in Bruen will encourage individuals to challenge other laws, ranging from our limits on who can buy guns, to our limits on the most dangerous kinds of guns New Jersey residents can buy. I will stand up for these critical safety measures, which find support in a long tradition of public safety measures in this country, and which continue to protect us in this era of gun violence and mass shootings.
In recent years New Jersey has emerged as a leader in addressing the deadly epidemic of gun violence that has claimed the lives of far too many in communities across the nation, and in our state. I look forward to charting a path forward under the law that keeps our residents safe, while holding those accountable who inflict harm on our communities.
Matthew J. Platkin is the Acting Attorney General of New Jersey.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: AG: Supreme Court ruling on guns undermines efforts to deter violence