NJ Senate Passes Strict Standards for Handgun Permits

By Brenda Flanagan

“Well, whenever you use the word guns, I guess it runs into trouble,” said Sen. Loretta Weinberg.

Weinberg said legislation dealing with guns draws automatic dissent. But lawmakers held their fire today and voted without comment on the so-called “concealed carry” bill. It sets very strict standards for New Jersey residents who must show a “justifiable need” to get a permit to carry a handgun.

“This state has been very stringent in the rules and regs governing who has the right to carry a firearm and we don’t think it should be expanded to kind of a vague, amorphous standard,” Weinberg said.

The Senate voted 22 to 17 to pass the measure, which defines “justifiable need” as an “urgent necessity for self-protection, as evidenced by specific threats or previous attacks” that “demonstrate a special danger to the applicant’s life.” Republicans disagreed. They supported Gov. Chris Christie’s earlier attempt to loosen permit regulations, letting people qualify if they could prove a “serious threat” — say, working in a dangerous neighborhood.

“And if you can show there is a serious threat on your life and you feel you need a weapon to defend yourself, then you should be able to,” said Republican Sen. Sam Thompson.

Christie’s expected to veto the bill, but Democrats have blocked his prior attempts to relax permit regulations. Lawmakers today also approved smart gun legislation that would require gun shops to stock at least one workable version of a personalized gun that can be fired only by the owner. The New Jersey Second Amendment Society opposes the bill.

“To force a dealer to have to sell something is un-American,” said Alexander Roubian, president of the society. “We have a lot of small dealers that can’t afford a $2,000 firearm that no one wants to purchase. If it was such a great idea, the free market would’ve allowed it and it would’ve been a natural success.”

But today’s big showdown got postponed. Both the Senate and Assembly had braced to override Christie’s veto of a bill that would revoke permits and remove guns from people convicted of domestic violence or with an active restraining order against them. But Democrats couldn’t muster enough votes in the Senate.

Any vote to override the governor is fraught with legislative anxiety. The override attempt has been rescheduled for Thursday when Democrats hope they’ll have enough people on board to avoid a misfire.