The Third Circuit Court of Appeals is set to hear oral arguments in Koons v. Platkin. How the court decides will determine whether New Jersey’s common-sense law to keep guns out of sensitive places – like playgrounds and bars – will stand. Here’s what you need to know about the case, and what’s at stake.
What is This Case About?
Last year, the Supreme Court issued a dangerous decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, striking down a key aspect of New York’s concealed carry law and changing the rules for how courts assess Second Amendment cases moving forward. Because New Jersey had a similar rule to New York’s, Bruen effectively disapproved that part of New Jersey’s concealed carry law too.
In the aftermath of the Bruen decision, volunteers with Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action called on their elected officials to pass legislation that would address the new dangers to gun safety caused by the Bruen decision.
Gun-sense leaders in New Jersey took action, enacting legislation that strengthens New Jersey’s law by revising the standards for who is eligible to obtain a carry permit in New Jersey. New Jersey’s law also established a list of locations where guns cannot be carried, including:
- Bars and restaurants where alcohol is served
- Schools, colleges and universities
- Daycare and childcare facilities
- Stadiums and amusement parks
- Polling places, courthouses and protests
- Playgrounds and youth sports events
- Public parks, beaches, and recreational facilities
Immediately after Governor Murphy signed this life-saving legislation into law, the gun lobby pulled out its tried-and-true tactic when common-sense gun safety laws are passed: challenging the law in the courts. Now, all eyes are on the Third Circuit to uphold New Jersey’s life-saving law.
Is New Jersey’s Law in Effect Right Now?
New Jersey’s law remains largely in effect today. A federal district judge enjoined several provisions of the law earlier this year, but the Third Circuit then granted a partial stay of that decision while the case is on appeal. That means that currently only three provisions of New Jersey’s law are on hold: (i) the prohibition on carrying guns on movie sets, (ii) the requirement that guns must be locked and unloaded while in a vehicle, and (iii) the requirement that individuals cannot carry guns onto another’s private property without the owner’s affirmative consent. All other aspects of the law remain in place pending the Third Circuit’s ruling on the appeal.
What is the Legal Precedent for a Case Like This?
In the wake of the Bruen decision, 5 states, including New Jersey, have passed legislation addressing the Supreme Court’s dangerous decision. To date, every single state to pass legislation responding to the Bruen decision has been met with a court challenge by the gun lobby.
- In New York, two federal district judges enjoined various provisions of New York’s law, but the Second Circuit put a stay on their decisions, so the law remains in effect while the state appeals (subject to certain limitations on the stays requested by New York) . We are awaiting a decision on the appeal. In several other decisions, federal district judges upheld challenged provisions of the law. Those decisions are now also on appeal in the Second Circuit.
- In Maryland, the federal district court largely rejected the gun lobby-backed demand for a preliminary injunction, concluding that their challenge is unlikely to succeed, and only put on hold three provisions of the law. Both sides have said that they do not plan to appeal that preliminary decision. The case will now proceed with full consideration on the merits of the plaintiffs’ constitutional challenge in the district court.
- In Hawaii, the federal district court enjoined various provisions of Hawaii’s law. The case is now on appeal in the Ninth Circuit.
- In California, two gun lobby-backed challenges to California’s law are in their early stages in federal district court.
What Happens if the Third Circuit Strikes Down New Jersey’s Law?
New Jersey’s law advances public safety by keeping guns out of the wrong hands and away from sensitive locations, like where our children learn and play. Not only is New Jersey’s law constitutional, it is a common-sense approach to preventing gun violence in our communities.
If the Third Circuit strikes down New Jersey’s law, it will be a gut punch to public safety that will no doubt put New Jerseyans in the line of fire.