The Case for Carrying Guns

Robert A. Scirocco 
New Jersey Law Journal

December 13, 2011

It was reported on a blog last June that our governor had taken a state helicopter to watch his son play baseball. “Christie watched the game from the stands, flanked by a cadre of State Police security guards,” the blog read.

In another report about New York’s Michael Bloomberg, it was noted that at any given public event concerning the mayor, “Roof-top NYPD snipers close roads and plainclothes cops go into the crowd.”

What Christie and Bloomberg have in common besides their level of armed security is their opposition to giving citizens any more gun rights than they have, even though New Jersey and New York already have among the toughest gun-control laws in the country.

Many other states recognize the right of residents to carry guns. During the past few years, a number of states have made sweeping changes to allow law-abiding residents to carry weapons as a means of self-defense. The concerns of those who initially opposed these laws typically turned out to be unfounded.

As David Rittgers of the Cato Institute wrote in March 2010, “As the concealed handgun laws across the nation were relaxed in the past 20 years, we have heard desperate warnings that blood would run in the streets when permits were issued. None of these predictions came true, and concealed handgun permit holders are a more law-abiding bunch than the populace as a whole.”

The New Jersey Supreme Court ironically recognizes that handguns are a deterrent and can save lives. In a ruling on a carry permit going back 40 years, the Court held in Siccardi v. State of N.J. , 59 N.J. 545 (1971): “One whose life is in real danger, as evidenced by serious threats or earlier attacks may perhaps qualify” for the right to carry. But in New Jersey it is up to the courts to determine when the threat is serious enough to allow the individual to protect himself. Judges are the ones who will deem whether you are worthy enough to protect yourself by carrying a gun.

One thing is certain — you will not be allowed to protect yourself with a concealed weapon unless you can establish that you have already been attacked or seriously threatened. If you are interested in carrying a gun to obviate such a threat from occurring in the first place, you are out of luck. As the state Supreme Court ruled in In re Preis , 118 N.J. 564 (1990), “Generalized fears for personal safety are inadequate, and a need to protect property alone does not suffice.”

But what if you are in possession of a carry permit issued to you as a resident of another state? Does such a permit allow you carry a gun in this state, as a licensed driver from another state would be allowed to operate a vehicle? Not surprisingly, the answer is no.

Although numerous states recognize carry permits of neighboring states, New Jersey is not one of them. Coincidently, the House of Representatives passed legislation on Nov. 16 that would require states to recognize the carry permits of their neighbors. Whether this bill will become law any time soon is doubtful in light of the current makeup of the Senate and Executive Branch.

The bottom line is everyone recognizes the effectiveness of firearms in deterring crime. No government leader in this country — not even Bloomberg or Christie — has yet to suggest that the use of guns as a form of protecting the political class should not be allowed when a dangerous threat is imminent. The real question is whether ordinary, law-abiding citizens should be granted the same right to defend themselves as do the members of the political class.

Neither Bloomberg nor Christie has to call 911 and hope that a cop shows up in time. The police are always by their side, armed and ready.

Scirocco, a solo practitioner in Budd Lake, handles civil and criminal litigation.