On June 23, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a decision that dramatically altered a citizen’s ability to carry a firearm outside one’s home.  New York State Rifle & Pistol Assoc. v. Bruen, No. 20-843, was a challenge to New York State’s Law requiring justifiable need and good cause for an individual to secure a permit for concealed carry of a firearm. The Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment afforded individuals the right to carry a concealed firearm for self-defense and that the necessity of justifiable need would be an infringement on that right.

The Bruen decision has led to a dramatic change in New Jersey law. Prior to Bruen, New Jersey, like New York, issued only a handful of such permits as N.J.S.A. 2C:58-4 required every applicant to “demonstrate a justifiable need to carry a handgun.” That need was strictly interpreted.

Thus, on June 24, 2022, Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin issued Law Enforcement Directive No. 2022-07 urging all police departments to process concealed carry permits by continuing to implement statutory prohibitions, background checks and firearms familiarity as required by N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3(c)(1) – (11) and N.J.A.C. 13:54-2.4(b). With the change in law, Governor Murphy predicted that 200,000 applications for concealed carry permits would likely be filed. The system, however, was designed to handle a very small number of applications. For instance in 2014, in a state with a population almost 9 million residents, only 496 concealed carry permits were issued.

New applications have already overloaded the application process, police departments and the Courts. Several counties are requiring hearings before the Presiding Criminal Division Judge to determine the eligibility, restrictions, and approval of concealed carry permits. These courts, already severely backlogged with criminal cases that were on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, are now deluged with carry permit applications.  While it remains to be seen how the Courts will adjust to the volume of applicants, as well as, what new or additional restrictions may be introduced by law makers, one thing is certain, applicants will endure a long and arduous process. These delays will be met with pressure from applicants citing N.J.S.A. 2C:58-4, which states: “If the application is not approved by the chief police officer or the superintendent within 60 days of filing, it shall be deemed to have been approved, unless the applicant agrees to an extension of time in writing”.

In the wake of Bruen, Governor Murphy also implemented new training and safety requirements for those applying for a Firearms Purchaser Identification Card (FID). An FID is required for any New Jersey Resident to purchase a firearm. On July 5, 2022, Governor Murphy signed into law new revisions to N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3 to take effect immediately. Revisions included “In order to obtain a permit to purchase a handgun or firearms purchaser identification card, the applicant shall demonstrate that, within four years prior to the date of the application, the applicant satisfactorily completed a course of instruction approved by the superintendent in the lawful and safe handling and storage of firearms. The applicant shall be required to demonstrate completion of a course of instruction only once prior to obtaining either a firearms purchaser identification card or the applicant’s first permit to purchase a handgun.” In addition, a NJ FID Card must now display a color photograph and thumb print of the card holder and the card holder must now renew their FID Card every ten (10) years. NJ FID Cards previously had no expiration date.

The immediate implementation of these revisions caused further confusion and delays. A number of municipalities stopped processing applications, uncertain which training course(s) would be approved by the State Police Superintendent. Another issue involves the cards themselves. FID Cards now must bear both the photograph and thumbprint of the card holder. The current system, however, was designed to distribute approved FID cards in a digital format. Towns are now concerned whether new equipment to print the FID cards with photographs and thumb prints must be purchased. Indecision regarding the new statutory amendments reached its peak when the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office issued a directive to all municipal police departments in the county to stop processing and issuing FID cards until clarification on fulfillment of new protocols was established by both the Superintendent and Governor.

In a speech to members of the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs, the Governor announced that the Superintendent had approved a new online course to satisfy the training requirement of the new law. This instructional safety course, provided free of charge to first time applicants, was implemented on Monday, September 16, on the New Jersey Firearms Application & Registration portal found on the NJSP’s website. The Governor also confirmed that all County Prosecutors were to process first-time purchaser applications without the requirement of the new amendments.

Undoubtedly, New Jersey has one of the nations’ strictest set of gun laws. Experienced and skillful legal advice can greatly assist applicants navigating the ever-changing landscape of firearm ownership in New Jersey.

Stahl Criminal Defense Attorneys have represented numerous clients facing a variety of issues involving firearms and firearm ownership at both the state and federal level. We actively and aggressively protect clients’ rights. To Contact Mr. Stahl, call (908) 301-9001 for the NJ office and (212) 755-3300 for the NYC office, or email Mr. Stahl at RStahl@StahlEsq.com