A new amendment to the Union County Code bans firearms from County property, properties affiliated with the County, and public transportation vehicles operated by the County. An exemption for law enforcement officers is included. A final hearing and vote on the new Ordinance took place at the Commissioner Board meeting on November 10, 2022. It will be published on Wednesday, November 16.
“We take this legislative action to hold firm on gun safety in our public spaces. Our residents have the right to conduct business with the County, go to school, cast their ballot in an election and enjoy our parks without having to worry about gun violence,” said Commissioner Board Chair Rebecca L. Williams. “The U.S. Supreme Court has opened the door for a torrent of guns to enter our community, as a result of its decision on the Bruen case last July. We are resolved to shut that door.”
“Governor Murphy and our state legislators are working hard to stem the damage done by the Bruen decision, and we are proud to support their efforts with this new amendment to Article XI,” said Kimberly Palmieri-Mouded, who chairs the Commissioner Board’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee. “The facts are clear: easy access to guns is a recipe for violence and fear, not safety and security.”
The properties covered by the ban include, but are not limited to, all County parks, office buildings and other facilities, as well as affiliated entities including polling places in all 21 municipalities, the Union County Courthouse and Family Court in Elizabeth the Vocational-Technical Schools Campus in Scotch Plains and the three Union College campuses in Cranford, Elizabeth and Plainfield.
The U.S. Supreme Court decided the case of New York Rifle & Pistol Assn. Inc. v. Bruen last July. A 6-3 majority of the Justices determined that New York’s “proper cause” requirement for obtaining a permit to carry a handgun in public was invalid. In effect, the decision enables anyone in New York State to carry a gun anywhere, for any reason, unless countervailing state law is upheld as constitutional.
The Bruen decision only impacts gun safety laws in New York State, where the plaintiff is located. However, Bruen sets a precedent for challenges to gun laws in other states such as New Jersey, which currently requires residents to show a “justifiable need” to obtain a permit.
The new section of Article XI is intended to ensure that the Bruen decision does not enable persons to carry guns on Union County property, within the restrictions allowed by the U.S. Constitution and case law stemming from the Constitution.
As amended, section 115-57 of Title XI reads:
- No person shall be permitted to carry any firearm concealed or otherwise, in any Sensitive Area within Union County, New Jersey.
- This restriction shall not apply to law enforcement officers, on or off duty, in the course of their lawful and official duties.
- A person who violates or causes to be violated a provision of this article shall be subject to a penalty of imprisonment for a term not exceeding 90 days, or to a fine, or both, of $500.00, for the first offense and $1,000.00 for each subsequent offense.
Section 115-58 reads:
“Sensitive Area” shall be defined as:
- All buildings or portion thereof, owned, controlled, leased or otherwise under the jurisdiction of the County, whether open to the public or not;
- Any Courthouse or building containing judicial functions of the state or County;
- Any building or portion thereof, which is the location of any program operated or funded by the County; including but not limited to Union County Vocational-Technical Schools and Union College;
- All recreational facilities and parks owned or operated by the County;
- Any vehicle owned or operated by or on behalf of the County while used for public transportation;
- Any polling place or location while open and operating for purposes of voting; and
- Any location, building or function of a similar nature to the above, owned or occupied by the County.
The New Jersey state legislature has also enacted additional common sense gun safety laws. In July, Governor Phil Murphy signed a suite of seven new state laws that enhance gun safety by requiring firearm training to obtain a gun permit, banning .50 caliber weapons, making it easier to sue gun manufacturers and dealers over gun crimes, requiring new residents to register firearms, requiring micro-stamping technology, regulating handgun ammunition, and cracking down on ghost guns.
Earlier this month, state lawmakers also introduced a new bill that bans non-permitted guns from 25 categories of buildings and facilities including government buildings, health care facilities, airports and more.
The bill also requires gun owners to purchase liability insurance. If the measure passes into law, it will be the first statewide mandate of its kind in the nation.
For information and updates on all Union County services during the COVID-19 outbreak, including free vaccination, free testing and other support services, visit ucnj.org/covid19. General information about COVID-19 is available through the New Jersey Department of Health at nj.gov/health.
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