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Siccardi v. State

Decided: December 13, 1971.

MICHAEL A. SICCARDI, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT



For affirmance -- Chief Justice Weintraub and Justices Jacobs, Francis, Proctor, Hall, Schettino and Mountain. For reversal -- None. The opinion of the Court was delivered by Jacobs, J.

Jacobs

The plaintiff Michael A. Siccardi applied under N.J.S.A. 2A:151-44 for a permit to carry a handgun. His application was denied by the Union County Court and he appealed to the Appellate Division which remanded the cause for enlargement of the record. That was done and thereafter we granted the plaintiff's petition for certification.

Siccardi is a resident of Plainfield and manages the Liberty Theater which is located on Front Street in Plainfield. His permit application asserted that (1) he was required to carry substantial sums of money from the theater to a nearby "bank depository in the late evening hours," (2) the theater is located "within the perimeter of the area of recent civil disorder in Plainfield," (3) "there have been numerous incidents involving beatings and robberies in the immediate area of the theater" and (4) he has received "numerous telephone threats" and his "life has been threatened" by persons confronting him "in the theater and on

the street." After investigation, Chief Campbell of the Plainfield Police Department, recommended denial and this was followed, after hearing, by the denial in the County Court. The evidence presented in the County Court pursuant to the Appellate Division's remand indicated the following:

In 1965 Siccardi sought a permit to carry a handgun. Chief Paine of the Plainfield Police Department found that there was an insufficient showing of "need" as required by the statute and Siccardi did not pursue the matter in the County Court. Indeed Siccardi has never held a permit to carry a handgun though he possesses guns both at home and at the theater; such possession at home and theater is not in issue here (N.J.S.A. 2A:151-42(a)) though it may evidentially be the subject of legislative provisions which do not call for carrying permits issuable only on a suitable showing of need. See N.J.S.A. 2A:151-32-36; Burton v. Sills, 53 N.J. 86 (1968), appeal dismissed, 394 U.S. 812, 89 S. Ct. 1486, 22 L. Ed. 2 d 748 (1969). Siccardi wants the permit so that he can carry a gun concealed on his person during trips from the theater to the bank depository and on his trips between the theater and his home. See N.J.S.A. 2A:151-41-46; State v. Cusick, 116. N.J. Super. 482, 485-486 (App. Div. 1971). He lives in an old residential low crime area about six minutes travel time from the theater. He has lived in the same house since 1927 and it has never been broken into. Though he has been manager of the theater for over twenty years, he has never been assaulted or attacked on his trips between his home and the theater. Though the Siccardi family has operated the theater for over thirty-five years, no member has thus been attacked or assaulted, nor has there ever been any incident involving the theater's proceeds.

Chief Campbell testified that he investigated Siccardi's application and in his opinion "Siccardi failed to justify a need for carrying a weapon." He pointed out that the Plainfield Police Department provides escort service which was always

available to Siccardi in connection with his trips to the bank depository. He did not recall ever getting any complaint from Siccardi about failing to provide the escort service though he did recall that Siccardi had mentioned that he had to wait "and when I explained to him why he seemed to understand it and accept it." Siccardi himself acknowledged that he was fully aware that he could, if he so wished, employ suitable private security guards or a private escort service at a cost of about $3.75 or $4 per hour.

So far as reference in Siccardi's application to the "perimeter of the area" of recent disturbances was concerned, Chief Campbell considered that it had no "bearing on his request to carry a weapon." He pointed out that there are approximately a hundred businesses in the area and no applications for gun permits had been made with respect to those businesses. With reference to Siccardi's statement as to "beatings and robberies," Chief Campbell testified that he would not classify the sites involved in the beatings and robberies as being "in the area of the theater." And finally, he testified that he did not recall any complaints by Siccardi that his life had been threatened. He did recall that Siccardi had told him about some threat by a man who lived near the theater but that man, whom he regarded as a "militant type of person," had threatened "many people in the City of Plainfield." Obviously, Chief Campbell was satisfied that there had been no serious threats against Siccardi calling for further police investigation or action or warranting the issuance of a carrying permit to Siccardi for his self-protection.

Chief Campbell testified that he had been with the Plainfield Police Department since 1949 and had been Acting Chief or Chief since 1967. In 1969 only three applications for carrying permits were approved by him for Plainfield; one to a gun dealer, another to a man employed in a security capacity and a third which is the subject of an appeal now pending before us. He was convinced that possession of a handgun is not well calculated to thwart street robberies;

he knew of no instance during his long tenure where a private citizen not connected with the police department had "thwarted an armed robbery on the streets of Plainfield through the use of a gun." Indeed Siccardi himself testified that if he were granted a permit he would not use his gun to thwart a robbery but only in self-defense; as he put it: "If ...


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