The Supreme Court of New Jersey—for the first time in nearly half a century—will be hearing a case that has the potential to reshape gun rights as we know them.
The law under scrutiny was first passed in 1924 and it requires people to show a “justifiable need” in order to be issued a permit to carry a handgun.
Recently, a federal appeals court upheld such a law in a different case explaining that states can require residents to prove that they have an “urgent necessity for self-protection” before being allowed to carry handguns.
Nevertheless, experts speculate that the NJ Supreme Court’s ruling could have a sweeping impact because it has the power to overturn a 1968 ruling that only citizen militias—not individuals—have Second Amendment rights in New Jersey.
According to Evan Nappen, the attorney representing the Monmouth County man challenging the law, “The bottom line is this is a very important if not the most important case yet on the Second Amendment and New Jersey gun laws.”
This case effectively gives the NJ Justices the license to redefine whether or not New Jersey’s Second Amendment applies to individuals or not. Additionally, since a tremendous amount of United State Supreme Court case law has redefined the contours of Second Amendment jurisprudence, the New Jersey Justices will have to examine the implications of those decisions on the case now before them.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently expanded Americans’ gun rights under the Second Amendment. In 2008, they held that individuals can keep guns at home and ruled in 2010 that every state must observe that right.
However, those decisions did not tell the states how to police firearms outside the home or what they should do about handgun-carrying permits. Consequently, this gives the New Jersey Supreme Court a tremendous amount of latitude in shaping its states gun control policy.
Frank Askin, a constitutional law professor at Rutgers University School of Law-Newark revealed, “New Jersey is not a very pro-gun state, and I doubt the Supreme Court is willing to take that step and open up the gun permits for carrying in public.”
Mr. Nappen conceded that his client faces an uphill battle at the state Supreme Court, especially since the state constitution does not guarantee any gun rights. This means he can only make his case under the federal Second Amendment unless the NJ Justices radically deviate from precedent.
Only time will tell whether New Jersey’s gun rights policy will be forever changed or simply solidified by this historic case.