(The Center Square) — New Jersey has lost another round in legal fights over its tough gun control laws, with a federal judge expanding the number of places where the state can’t restrict lawful gun owners from carrying firearms as the case plays out in court.
In a ruling issued Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Renee Marie Bumb issued a restraining order barring the state from enforcing sections of a law preventing licensed firearm owners from carrying guns in at least 25 “sensitive places” like government buildings, libraries, public transportation and day care centers.
Bumb said sections of the new law prohibiting guns in casinos, bars and other public venues would cause “irreparable injury” for legal gun owners.
“The state may regulate conduct squarely protected by the Second Amendment only if supported by a historical tradition of firearm regulation,” Bumb wrote in the 46-page ruling. “Here, defendants cannot demonstrate a history of firearm regulation to support these challenged provisions.”
A lawsuit filed in December by the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, claiming it “flagrantly and intentionally” violates the Second Amendment, and a 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision “upholding the right of honest citizens to carry firearms for personal protection.”
Bumb said the plaintiffs in the lawsuit have demonstrated a “likelihood of success” on the merits of the case, and granted their motion to bar enforcement of the firearm restrictions in casinos, public parks, bars and restaurants, and several other “sensitive” areas covered by the new law.
“The threat of criminal prosecution for exercising their Second Amendment rights, as the holders of valid permits from the state to conceal carry handguns, constitutes irreparable injury on behalf of plaintiffs, and neither the state nor the public has an interest in enforcing unconstitutional laws,” she wrote.
But Bumb’s ruling will allow the restriction to be enforced in other locations, including playgrounds, youth sporting events, zoos, airports and health care facilities.
Gov. Phil Murphy signed the law in December, in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the N.Y. State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen case, which struck down a New York law requiring applicants to show “proper cause” to get a permit to carry a firearm.
The high court’s conservative majority affirmed the constitutional right to carry firearms in public places for self-defense, which has prompted reviews of firearm licensing laws in New Jersey and other states that heavily restrict gun ownership.
The new law also increases the fee for firearm permits from $2 to $25, and tightens requirements to obtain a carry permit by requiring additional training.
Approval of the new restrictions were praised by gun control groups, but was met with immediate threats from gun rights groups to challenge the new restrictions in court.
A similar lawsuit, filed last month by the Second Amendment Foundation on behalf of several gun owners, argued the new law is an unconstitutional overreach of the state government’s authority.
Earlier this month, Bumb issued a temporary restraining order preventing enforcement of the law, based on the group’s legal challenge.