LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

Gun Permit Seekers Criticize Jersey City

By Michael Hill
Correspondent

Even after an appeals court found Jersey City’s firearms application required information and forms that were outside the state law, one gun permit applicant says the police department kept using some of the same forms, such as a questionnaire that a year after the ruling prompted that same applicant to write “It doesn’t say the form is required but it is certainly implied and the instructions provided to me verbally said I must complete the entire packet.”

“You shouldn’t be allowed to take the law in your own hands and basically prevent somebody from exercising their rights because that’s really what it comes down to,” said Jef Henninger, an attorney representing clients seeking gun permits.

The applicant also wrote about another Jersey City, outside-the-law form: “There is an Authorization Waiver to Release Information which is by far the most disturbing form to me. It states that, by my signature ‘I release all persons from any liability that could result from furnishing the requested information to the Jersey City Police Department.'”

In April, the state attorney general issued a directive to all police departments to follow the law on firearms applications and to get rid of forms that don’t comply with the law.

Jersey City says it has and — to the dismay of some police officers — it stopped asking gun permit applicants who else lives in their household, which recently had revealed ex-cons in three separate cases. NJTV News picked up a copy of the revised application packet today. The last page: The authorization waiver.

Today at this swearing-in for 29 new police officers, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop defended the police department’s firearms permitting process.

“We think we follow state law and we think New Jersey has some of the strictest laws and we’re conscious of where we lie in those laws to make sure that we’re always adhering to that,” Fulop said.

“The directives aren’t good enough. There has to be some type of consequence because think about it as a police department in Jersey City. If they don’t want to follow the law what is the consequence for not following the law, other than just going to court over and over again?” asked Henninger.

The state attorney general says it’s up to county prosecutors to police the police on the issue.

“We haven’t received any complaints. It’s not necessarily something that we would receive. It’s possible they’ve seen those problems. My office, as far as I’m concerned we have not received any of those complaints,” said Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez.

Despite losing in court, Mayor Fulop says Jersey City is sticking to its guns because he doesn’t want average citizens walking around armed.

“We think that the Second Amendment has its place, but it doesn’t include regular citizens walking around the streets and carrying firearms and taking law enforcement in to their own hands. And so we make sure that we have strict guidelines around who we issue permits to, how we issue permits,” Fulop said.

“I believe if a person has passed all the tests required by the state they should be able to carry a weapon, not carry necessarily, but own one for protection in their home. With the way things are going in this world today, it’s almost a must to protect your family and to protect others,” said Jersey City Councilman Rich Boggiano.

“I think when you have regular citizens walking around with firearms on their sides, like some people would advocate for, I don’t think is productive,” Fulop said. But, law enforcement can’t be everywhere all the time? “Law enforcement can’t be everywhere. We think growing to 900 police officers will be adequate for covering the city and at the same time we have good community outreach partnerships with community groups and recreation programs, social services in place. You know, creating a safe city isn’t only about law enforcement,” he said.

When the Christie administration announced the new directives last month, it cited the frustrations of gun applicants and advocates and their videos documenting some of the local police departments making up their own permit requirements. Gun rights advocates say some still are at it.