Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

N.J. lawmakers sue to halt Christie rule easing gun permits

In its lawsuit, the Legislature argues the rule change will lead to an “unnecessary increase” in carry permits.

The New Jersey Legislature has sued to try to roll back a new rule by Gov. Christie's administration making it easier to qualify for a permit to carry a handgun.

Lawmakers had sought to stop the administration's move, which allows carry permits to be issued to people who demonstrate "serious" threats that cannot be avoided by other reasonable means.

Before the change — which took effect Monday — the rule allowed permits to be issued to people facing "specific" threats that could not be avoided by any other means.

While the Democratic-led Legislature had passed resolutions declaring that the change was inconsistent with legislative intent, Christie's office announced last month that it had adopted the rule — dismissing lawmaker actions as "procedurally deficient and substantively incorrect."

The Legislature's lawsuit, filed with the Appellate Division last week, asks the court to stay the rule pending appeal.

A judge on Friday denied a motion for the stay request to be heard on short notice, saying that "even if an application for a permit to carry a handgun is issued pursuant to the new regulation, no permit shall issue except upon approval of a Superior Court judge."

In its lawsuit, the Legislature argues the rule change will lead to an "unnecessary increase" in carry permits.

The State Police, with the attorney general's approval, "wants to allow permits to carry handguns to those who have not been specifically threatened or previously attacked," according to the lawsuit.

The suit argues that the state did not have legal authority to adopt the new rule, noting repeated votes by lawmakers to invalidate the move under a process to declare regulatory changes "inconsistent with legislative intent."

It cites a previous dispute between lawmakers and Christie's administration over a rule change that would have enabled certain public worker promotions without competitive examinations. The Legislature, which had voted to invalidate the rule, prevailed in a court battle.

The court has previously "afforded the appropriate deference to the authority of the Legislature," the lawsuit says.

Spokesmen for the Attorney General's Office did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

In adopting the permit rule last month, the Christie administration contended the Legislature did not follow the proper process in invalidating the rule.

It also said the Legislature's argument against the rule was not valid, citing a 1990 New Jersey Supreme Court decision on the permit standard that refers to "an urgent necessity for protection of self or others" existing in cases of "serious threats."

Gun-rights advocates have criticized New Jersey's standard as overly restrictive, and in recent years Christie has argued that changes to the permitting system are needed. The rule change now in dispute was proposed by a commission the governor created in 2015 before launching his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.