Second only to New York, New Jersey is said to have some of the strictest gun laws in the country. One New Jersey lawmaker is advocating to allow judges and legislators the right to carry handguns.
Republican state Sen. Gerald Cardinale of Bergen, New Jersey, is seeking to make it legal for New Jersey’s legislators and judges to carry handguns.
If passed, the bill would allow the 120 members of the New Jersey Legislature and the hundreds of judges at the state’s superior and municipal court levels to obtain carry permits. The bill does include a stipulation that they must complete a minimum of eight hours of firearms training. Additionally, legislators and judges would be required to show they do not have any disabilities that would exclude them under the current law.
Under the current law, a New Jersey resident can only apply for a handgun carry permit if they’re able to show a “justifiable need” to protect themselves. Additionally, they must be able to prove that the danger to their life cannot be avoided by any other means besides a firearm. An advocate for gun rights and veteran lawmaker, Cardinale believes that lawmakers and judges pose a greater risk of being attacked than the average citizen.
According to Cardinale, the new bill was inspired in part by the 2011 shooting of then-U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was severely wounded during a mass shooting at a public event at an Arizona supermarket.
“This measure will ensure that public servants have the means to protect themselves from those who might violently disagree with their viewpoints or decisions,” he said. “A judge should feel safe returning home each night no matter how they ruled or what they ruled on that day.”
If passed, Cardinale’s bill (S1982) would make lawmakers and judges exempt from the “justifiable need” rule. A member of the state Legislature since 1980, this is not Cardinale’s first attempt to loosen the state’s famously strict gun laws. He has sponsored a few bills, but none have ever been approved.
The bill, which was bound to ruffle some feathers, motivated advocates on both sides of the debate to speak out. But Bryan Miller, executive director of Heeding God’s Call, a pro-gun control group, called the measure “ridiculous.”
“It ignores data that shows if you carry a gun, you are four or five times more likely to be shot than someone not carrying a gun,” said Brian Miller, executive director of Heeding God’s Call, a pro-gun control group. “Gerry’s been trying to arm the public for 20 years. It hasn’t worked and it won’t work in this state.”
Even Alexander Roubian, president of the New Jersey Second Amendment Society, a gun rights group, is having a hard time buying into Sen. Cardinale’s logic. “Their mentality of ‘good for thee but not for me’ radiates in this proposed bill. Why are the politicians and judges more important than regular citizens?”
To become law, the bill would need to be passed by both houses of the Legislature — the Senate and Assembly — and then signed by Gov. Chris Christie.