Anyone see this today? Front page of the Opinion section in The Record today:

Don’t touch gun-carry permit law
Sunday, October 10, 2010
The Record
Linda E. Fisher is a law professor in the Seton Hall Law School Center for Social Justice, where she heads the Civil Litigation Clinic and works with the Center’s Urban Revitalization Project to develop and promote strategies addressing urban housing issues. Jenny-Brooke Condon is law professor in the Seton Hall Law School Center for Social Justice, where she directs the Equal Justice Clinic.

FEW PUBLIC policy issues in this country — and in New Jersey — are as controversial and poorly understood as gun control.

Despite an endless stream of senseless and horrific gun crimes in our state, some still vehemently oppose New Jersey’s comprehensive handgun permitting scheme — and indeed any handgun regulation at all.

As professors at Seton Hall Law School who are distressed at the recent tragic shooting death of a Seton Hall college student, and as lawyers who defended Jersey City’s one-gun-a-month ordinance in our state’s Supreme Court, we applaud the New Jersey Legislature’s long-standing commitment to limiting the use of guns as much as possible in this state.

We hope that the Legislature, consistent with that tradition, will reject a recent bill that would significantly expand gun owners’ ability to carry handguns outside of the home.

On Sept. 20, Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, introduced S-2264, which would amend existing law to eliminate the requirement that persons seeking handgun carry permits demonstrate a “justifiable need” for carrying a handgun.

Inherent dangers

Our Supreme Court has recognized that “the New Jersey Legislature has long been aware of the dangers inherent in the carrying of handguns and the urgent necessity for their regulation.” For that reason, since 1924, the Legislature has required a “justifiable need” for carry permits as a means of limiting ready access to handguns outside of the home.

Specifically, the state has wisely limited issuance of handgun carrying permits to individuals employed in security work and to other limited persons with an urgent need for self-protection.

If enacted, the proposed law would be an unfortunate and dangerous departure from this policy of limited handgun access. It would also represent a misguided break from New Jersey’s admirable commitment to gun safety, which the Legislature itself has described as “unrivaled anywhere in the nation.”

New Jersey is not alone in its long-standing concern about ready access to handguns. Alabama, California, Delaware, Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island all have similar laws that limit the granting of carry permits to individuals who can demonstrate good cause for handgun access outside of the home. These states have reason to believe that these laws make sense.

As research from the public interest group Legal Community Against Gun Violence demonstrates, many of the states with strong gun laws, including strict guidelines on who many carry handguns, also have some of the lowest gun death rates in the country.

Low rate of gun deaths

In light of its “unrivaled” commitment to gun safety, it is no coincidence that New Jersey is one of the 10 states with the lowest rate of gun deaths in the country.

Contrary to the claims of gun control opponents, the recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago do not require rethinking New Jersey’s long-standing and effective gun control regime. The Heller decision struck down a Washington, D.C., ordinance prohibiting handgun use for self-defense in one’s home. But in doing so, the court made eminently clear that the Second Amendment right to bear arms “is not unlimited.”

According to the Supreme Court, since the 18th century, “cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose” — observing in particular, that “prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons” have historically been recognized as appropriate.

The court also made clear that it did not intend to “cast doubt” on the appropriateness of several other traditional areas of state gun regulation, including restrictions on who may purchase firearms and when and how they may be purchased and used.

Reasonable regulation

The decision in McDonald extended Heller to states and municipalities. Make no mistake — neither opinion prohibits reasonable regulation of handgun use outside of the home.

New Jersey’s long-standing carry-permit statute is a constitutional and effective regulation that should not be second-guessed after 80 years of helping to keep New Jerseyans safe.

Because the carry-permit law limits the situations in which the presence of a gun in public can cause a sudden escalation of violence, it serves to reduce the number of accidental shootings, homicides and serious injuries that plague far too many of our communities.

While opponents of gun regulation invariably claim that only law-abiding gun owners are affected by regulations on gun use, the reality is that gun violence is, tragically, not limited to known criminals.

We hope that the Legislature, consistent with that tradition, will reject a recent bill that would significantly expand gun owners’ ability to carry handguns outside of the home.

NJ court agrees

In 1968, the New Jersey Supreme Court recognized this reality when it rejected the very same claims of gun control opponents and upheld our state’s comprehensive gun-permitting scheme.

The Legislature should reject S-2264 and affirm its long-standing conviction that even law-abiding citizens can misuse guns in the wrong circumstances and even lawful guns inadvertently fall into the wrong hands with tragic results.