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Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, Inc., et al. v. Christopher Christie

February 2, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Pisano, District Judge.


In this action, Plaintiffs Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, Inc., Scott Bach, Kaare Johnson, Vincent Furio, Steven Yagiello and Bob's Little Sport Shop, Inc. (collectively, "Plaintiffs") have challenged certain amendments to N.J.S.A. 2C:58-2 and 2C:58-3, referred to as the "One Gun Law" or the "One Handgun Per Month Law" (hereinafter, the "One Gun Law"). The One Gun Law provides, subject to certain exceptions, that no person may purchase more than one handgun in any thirty day period. Presently before the Court are motions by the State of New Jersey defendants*fn1 (the "State") and the City of Hackensack ("Hackensack") to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Plaintiffs have opposed the motions and have moved for summary judgment. For the reasons below, the Court denies Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, grants Defendants' motions as to the Plaintiffs' federal claims, and declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims.

I. Background

The One Gun Law, effective as of January 1, 2010, amended New Jersey's law regarding the purchase of firearms to provide that "no more than one handgun shall be purchased within any 30-day period." N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3(i). This one-gun-per-month limitation, however, is subject to certain exceptions, which are enumerated in the statute. For example, the limitation does not apply to law enforcement officers purchasing firearms for use in their duties or to transfers among licensed dealers. See N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3(i)(1) and (3). As relevant to this case, the statute contains an exception for "any transaction where the superintendent [of the State Police] issues an exemption from the prohibition in this subsection pursuant to the provisions [N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3.4]. N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3(i)(6).

As codified in N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3.4, New Jersey's legislature provided a mechanism for the Superintendent of the State Police to grant a purchaser an exemption to the One Gun Law in limited circumstances. Under section 2C:58-3.4, "[t]he superintendent may grant an exemption from the restriction on the purchase of handguns set forth in subsection i. of N.J.S.2C:58-3 if the applicant demonstrates to the satisfaction of the superintendent that the applicant's request meets one of the following conditions:

(1) The application is to purchase multiple handguns from a person who obtained the handguns through inheritance or intestacy;

(2) The applicant is a collector of handguns and has a need to purchase or otherwise receive multiple handguns in the same transaction or within a 30-day period in furtherance of the applicant's collecting activities. .;*fn2 or

(3) The applicant participates in sanctioned handgun shooting competitions and needs to purchase or otherwise receive multiple handguns in a single transaction or within a 30-day period, and the need is related to the applicant's competitive shooting activities, including use in or training for sanctioned competitions.

N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3.4(a).

To apply for the inheritance, collector or competitive shooting exemption (hereinafter, an "Exemption" or the "Exemptions") to the One Gun Law, a prospective purchaser must submit an application to the Superintendent, certifying on a form prescribed by the superintendent, the specific exemption sought and the particular handguns to be purchased. This form shall be submitted to the superintendent at the same time as the permit to purchase a handgun, along with any pertinent documentation supporting the need for an exemption. If the information concerning the particular handguns to be purchased is not available when the form is submitted, that information shall be provided to the superintendent as soon as practicable thereafter.

N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3.4(b).

The Superintendent of the State Police promulgated forms ("Exemption Forms") for applicants to use to apply for an Exemption on April 6, 2010, approximately 4 months after the law took effect.

Plaintiff originally filed their complaint on January 17, 2010 and filed an amended complaint on March 10, 2010. Among other things, Plaintiffs alleged in their original complaint that that the One Gun Law was void as being preempted by federal law. Specifically, Plaintiffs alleged that the One Gun Law was void because it was preempted by 15 U.S.C. § 5001(g)(ii), which provides that "[n]o State shall ... prohibit the sale ... of traditional B-B, paint-ball, or pellet-firing air guns that expel a projectile through the force of air pressure." Plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction enjoining enforcement of the One Gun Law, and various defendants moved to dismiss the complaint. On June 14, 2010, this Court, finding the One Gun Law not to be preempted, entered an Opinion and Order denying Plaintiffs' motion for an injunction. The Court also granted in part defendants' motions to dismiss and dismissed those counts alleging federal preemption. See docket entry nos. 50 and 51.

Plaintiffs filed a Second Amended Complaint ("SAC") on October 1, 2010. In light of the Court's earlier Opinion and Order, the only claims in the SAC that remain in this case are contained in Counts Three through Six. Counts Three and Four are claims under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 that challenge the requirements for obtaining an Exemption. Plaintiffs contend that "the Legislature intended that there be specific exemptions to the restrictions of the One Gun a Month Law for collectors, competitors and inheritance .[, but] the manner in which the Exemptions have been implemented render them illusory and therefore they [violate the due process clause of the 14th Amendment]." Pl. Reply at 3. Plaintiffs specifically take issue with the requirement that, in order to obtain the Exemption, an applicant must identify by serial number the specific handguns he wishes to purchase. As a result of this requirement, an applicant must wait until he finds handguns he wishes to purchase before he can obtain an Exemption. Plaintiffs contend that, consequently, an applicant, upon finding a set of handguns he wishes to purchase, must seek the cooperation of a vendor to hold the weapons off of the market while the applicant seeks approval for the purchase, which he may or may not obtain. According to Plaintiffs, such a ...

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