On January 5, lawyers in the Koons v. Reynolds case appeared in US District Court for New Jersey before the Honorable Renee Marie Bumb to provide arguments for and against a temporary restraining order (TRO) in the hotly contested “carry-killer” bill, which was signed into law by the New Jersey Governor on December 22, last year.
The new bill (A4769/S3214) for all intents and purposes identified the entire state of New Jersey as a “sensitive location”, effectively prohibiting concealed carry of a firearm by law-abiding permit holders.
The temporary restraining order being sought would nullify the new law and return the status quo to that prior to December 22 until the case can be heard and tried.
The State seemed ill-prepared to defend their position according to a witness who attended the hearing. Writing on his Facebook account, Kurt Lundy, a Second Amendment and gun rights advocate stated, “Most of the hearing, she [Judge Bumb] was grilling the State because their claims and justification of this law was outright ridiculous and comical.”
According to the official transcript, the hearing began with attorney David Jensen laying out an overview of the plaintiffs’ argument for a TRO. Jensen represents a group of New Jersey gun owners and Second Amendment rights groups, including The Second Amendment Foundation, Firearms Policy Coalition, Coalition of New Jersey Firearms Owners and the New Jersey Second Amendment Society.
Jensen’s primary argument, reflecting the heart of the lawsuit itself, is that the list of sensitive places is extraordinarily broad and imposes limits and penalties far beyond those which are reasonable. His arguments cited historical tradition along with current practices in the majority of the country that allow concealed carry.
The state responded with arguments that intended to show plaintiffs didn’t have standing with which to bring the case. They cited laws from 1771, 1859, 1870, 1872, and 1876 in an effort to bolster their cases that firearms were banned in places of public gathering. That state also asserted that they needed time to research and find more data supporting their position.
Jensen countered by pointing out that many of these laws covered poaching and hunting and were either not analogous to today’s current law or were outliers that didn’t establish a long-standing tradition of banning firearms.
Judge Bumb asked numerous questions throughout the hearing seeking clarification. For example, regarding the provision that requires private property owners to provide consent to allow firearms on their property, the judge asked:
“The other question I have is, at what point does the gun owner know whether or not he has expressed consent? Does he walk down the winding driveway, get to the front door and until he’s gotten to the front door, violate the law because he only learns when he gets to the front door that he didn’t have consent? At what point does the gun owner know that he shouldn’t have a gun on my property?”
Judge Bumb also made observations that suggest the law infringes on First Amendment rights.
“What doesn’t make any sense to me, it seems to me that this statute, it seems to me, is compelling private property owners to express a view as to their view on this legislation.”
The other main argument by plaintiffs in support of a TRO was that the law caused irreparable injury. In making the argument Jensen made the analogy that, “Is the denial of the right to vote an irreparable injury if a plaintiff doesn’t come in with proof that their vote would have altered the outcome of the election?” He also made the obvious observation that the inability to exercise self-defense is the ultimate irreparable harm.
The hearing ended with a compelling question from Judge Bumb and an equally interesting answer from the State:
“Does the State have any evidence that concealed carry holders are responsible for an increase in gun crimes?”
Ms. Cai responded:
“Not specifically, Your Honor, no.”
Judge Bumb concluded the hearing by stating, “It is my intent and my hope to get a decision to you just as expeditiously as I can, okay?”