Tuesday, August 1, 2023

New Jersey Firearm Owners Face Further Challenges due to Excessive Training Mandated by 'Bruen Response' Law

New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin (AP Photo/Mike Catalini)

The narrative around New Jersey's controversial "carry-killer" Bruen response law, a measure significantly restricting carry rights in the state, continues to evolve. Previously, we discussed the two legal actions launched against this New Jersey law passed in December. Two restraining orders and an initial injunction were initially enforced in the Federal Court for the District of New Jersey. However, New Jersey state successfully acquired a partial stay of the injunction from the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, thereby authorizing some elements of the law.

In the Federal Court, Judge Marie Bumb paused the case due to ongoing appeals in the Circuit Court. Even as the legal dispute continued, the state started enforcing parts of the law pertaining to the training and qualification criteria for carry permit applicants. These standards, although deemed high, were put into effect, and yet another legal action against the state is looming.

Initially expected to be introduced on July 1st, the new training prerequisites aren't to be made available by the New Jersey State Police until July 17th. Deemed "interim," these requirements reflect those previously established for retired police officers seeking and maintaining their carry permits. The New Jersey State Police's apparent reluctance, ineptitude, or possibly deliberate intentions are perplexing given the high bar set for non-law enforcement officers to obtain their permits.

The training involves a 50-round shooting course, where applicants must achieve 80% accuracy at a range of up to 25 yards on an FBI "Q" target. The qualification includes varied distances, stages, and setups. Timed drills, some with durations as short as three seconds, and a kneeling shooting requirement seem excessively demanding for average citizens.

While training and qualifications are necessary, mandatory training that pushes regular citizens to achieve proficiency levels that seasoned police officers might struggle with appears unreasonable and inconsistent with the Bruen ruling. The notion of compulsory training, in my view, contravenes the constitution, as it deviates from the established practices at the time of its founding.

A further issue is the law's requirement for existing permit holders to re-qualify by October 1st, with no clear guidance on the process. Uncertainties persist about how and where to submit documentation for requalification.

In response to the new training requirements, the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, a party in one of the lawsuits contesting the law, urged Judge Marie Bumb to revive the case at the federal level. Within an hour, the Judge complied, indicating likely additional filings in the future.

The timeline for this litigation remains uncertain. However, there is anticipation for a request for a temporary restraining order concerning this part of the law and hope for its approval.

The combined lawsuits of Siegel v. Platkin and Koons v. Platkin are scheduled for hearing in the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals on October 25. It's unclear whether all facets of the cases or only those preliminarily halted and subsequently stayed will be argued. However, the organizations involved in these cases are committed to challenging New Jersey's training requirements and other yet-to-be-challenged aspects of the law.

In its attempt to suppress legal firearm carrying following the Bruen ruling, New Jersey may have overstepped its bounds, potentially undermining the remaining civil liberty "hold-out" states. This is a common outcome when autocratic regimes desperately strive to maintain absolute control.

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