New suit looks to overturn NJ assault rifle ban in wake of Supreme Court landmark ruling

  • In US
  • 2022-07-01 22:13:40Z
  • By The Bergen Record

New Jersey's ban on assault rifles such as the AR-15 and AK-47 is unconstitutional and must be overturned immediately, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in Camden federal court.

Brought by the Firearms Policy Coalition, a gun rights group, and two of its members, the lawsuit claims New Jersey's ban "unconstitutionally infringes upon Plaintiffs' fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms."

The two members - Timothy Connolly of Ocean County and Mark Cheeseman of Gloucester County - claim they want AR-15s for "lawful purposes, especially home defense and target shooting," according to the lawsuit. But they have refrained because they fear prosecution.

Their attorneys wrote that the ban violates the precedent established by the United States Supreme Court in its ruling last month, which overturned a New York law that placed strict limits on who could carry a firearm in public. The court said gun control laws must now be consistent with the nation's historical traditions of firearms regulation.

"There's no history of locking people in cages for peaceably owning common firearms," Matthew Larosiere, the coalition's policy counsel, said Friday. "The type of arms targeted by New Jersey's ban are both constitutionally protected and dearly needed by the people."

More:Supreme Court ruling striking down NY gun law could eviscerate NJ's restrictive laws

The lawsuit represents one of the first big challenges to the Garden State's restrictive gun laws following the controversial ruling. But the court's 6-3 decision won't only affect carry laws - it also changes the standard federal courts must use when evaluating new and existing gun control statutes.

Writing for the court's conservative majority, Justice Clarence Thomas said gun laws must now be comparable to restrictions enacted throughout American history to be considered valid.

That wording will likely make it far easier to challenge existing gun laws, such as New Jersey's assault weapons ban or its prohibition on high-capacity magazines. The high court has already declared lower courts must reconsider the latter, which made it illegal to possess magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

It also declared lower courts must reconsider a similar ban on assault rifles in Maryland.

The Supreme Court's decision - and its rippling effects - arrives as the nation reels from an explosion of gun violence and bloody mass shootings, including May massacres at a Buffalo supermarket that left 10 dead and at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas that killed 19 children and two teachers.

The coalition's lawsuit names as defendants New Jersey acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin, State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan, and the Gloucester and Ocean county prosecutors.

Both Platkin and Callahan declined to comment. Neither prosecutor responded to immediate requests for comment.

But in a Friday opinion piece published by The Record and, Platkin said he was committed to using a "wide range of tools" to protect the state's residents from gun violence.

"The opinion in [the New York case] will encourage individuals to challenge other laws, ranging from our limits on who can buy guns, to our limits on the most dangerous kinds of guns New Jersey residents can buy," Platkin wrote. "I will stand up for these critical safety measures, which find support in a long tradition of public safety measures in this country, and which continue to protect us in this era of gun violence and mass shootings."

Both Cheeseman and Connolly are members of the Firearms Policy Coalition, a nonprofit that operates out of Nevada and focuses on gun rights.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs referred to the state's assault weapons ban as an "expansive criminal regime" that illegally bars residents from owning a variety of semiautomatic, military-style rifles. Many of these, including the AR-15, have been used by gunmen in American's worst mass shootings.

The lawsuit argued that AR-15s are an "optimal firearm to rely on in a self defense encounter." The banned rifles are commonly used for hunting and sport, but rarely crime, it said.

New Jersey's ban runs "contrary to this nation's historical tradition of firearms regulation," it added.

"The rifles at issue in this case are the sorts of bearable arms in common use for lawful purposes that responsible and peaceable people across the United States possess by the millions," the lawsuit said. "And they are, moreover, exactly what they would bring to service in militia duty, should such be necessary."

This article originally appeared on NJ assault rifle ban lifting subject of Firearms Policy Coalition suit


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