A federal judge ruled on Monday that a central component of a new law that limited where handguns may be carried in New Jersey was unconstitutional, severely undercutting the state’s effort to create gun-free zones in public places where crowds gather.
In a sharply worded decision, Judge Renée Marie Bumb of the U.S. District Court of New Jersey concluded that a half-dozen restrictions in the legislation, adopted less than three weeks ago, were “so extensive and burdensome” that they rendered the right to “armed self-defense in public a nullity.”
New Jersey, like New York, established an extensive list of places where handgun owners were not permitted to carry weapons in response to a Supreme Court ruling in June that loosened restrictions on carrying guns in public.
Judge Bumb’s order at least temporarily blocks New Jersey from enforcing much of the new law, and immediately permits licensed handgun owners to carry weapons in nightclubs, theaters, arenas, concert halls, racetracks and museums, among other places, pending further court action.
“As plaintiffs lament, the challenged provisions force a person permitted to carry a firearm in New Jersey to ‘navigate a veritable minefield,’” wrote Judge Bumb, who was nominated to the lifetime position in 2006 by President George W. Bush.
“The court knows of no constitutional right that requires this much guesswork by individuals wanting to exercise such right,” she added.
The state’s attorney general, Matthew J. Platkin, noted that the ruling was not a final order and would be appealed.
“We are disappointed by the court’s ruling, which is inconsistent with the Second Amendment and will make New Jerseyans considerably less safe,” Mr. Platkin said. “But this temporary order is just that: temporary.”
Aspokeswoman for Gov. Philip D. Murphy stressed that much of the law — including limits on who can obtain handgun licenses and strict rules related to safety training and insurance — were not affected by the decision of a “right-wing federal judge.”
“We are working closely with the attorney general’s office to correct this errant decision and to ensure that the law will be reinstated in its entirety,” the spokeswoman, Tyler Jones, said in a statement.
The decision stemmed from a challenge by four gun-rights organizations — Second Amendment Foundation, Firearms Policy Coalition Inc., Coalition of New Jersey Firearm Owners and New Jersey Second Amendment Society — and three New Jersey handgun owners.
“Clearly, New Jersey lawmakers have gone too far in crafting a law to get around the high court’s decision,” Alan M. Gottlieb, the executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation, said in a statement.