The Volokh Conspiracy

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N.J. Attorney General Acknowledges N.J. Must Now Go "Shall-Issue" on Concealed Carry Permits


AG's Enforcement Directive No. 22-07, issued Friday, makes clear that (effective immediately) applicants no longer need to submit a "written certification of justifiable need to carry a handgun." As with California, it appears that no further legislative change is required for New Jersey's may-issue system to switch to, effectively, shall-issue.

The law still continues to require, though, that the applicant "be endorsed by three reputable persons who have known the applicant for at least three years preceding the date of application, and who shall also certify thereon that the applicant is a person of good moral character and behavior." As I mentioned in my post about the California AG's letter, it's not clear to me that such a character-reference requirement is a permissible condition for exercising what the Court has said is a constitutional right. The Court has made clear that objective disqualifications for things such as felony conviction or mental illness are constitutionally permissible, but requiring character references as to "good moral character and behavior" strikes me as much harder to justify.

I understand why people might think that someone who can't round up even three people who can speak highly of him is likely to be an odd duck. (Note that the people needn't be New Jersey residents, so this shouldn't be a huge burden even to people who have just moved to New Jersey.) Still, it seems to me that a constitutional right can't be a right at the sufferance of one's friends or acquaintances.