In a precedential case involving New Jersey gun law, a state appeals court recently issued a decision which allows the State to prevent an individual who has been accused of an act of domestic violence, but never convicted, from purchasing a firearm and/or maintaining a firearm in his or her residence. This case calls into question several critical components of the New Jersey justice system, perhaps most significantly, the presumption of innocence. It also begs the question: when does the constitutional right to bear arms under the Second Amendment become subordinate to the interests of public safety
This decision was issued on April 22, 2015, as a panel of three judges in New Jersey s Appellate Division ruled against the man who brought the appeal to the court after being denied the right to purchase a handgun in New Jersey. The man, who is identified solely as Z.L. for the purposes of these proceedings, was accused of committing an act of domestic violence against his wife in 1998. This charge was subsequently dismissed; however, law enforcement had reportedly responded to five other alleged domestic violence incidents at Z.L. s home between 2003 and 2011.
Although Z.L. was never found guilty of a domestic violence offense, Appellate Division Judge John Kennedy stated that Z.L. has demonstrated the potential for violent reaction. Further, the panel cited a section of N.J.S.A. 2C:58-39(c)(5), the New Jersey Gun Control Law, to underscore their decision. Essentially, this section provides the State with the authority to deny firearms purchaser identification cards and purchase permits to those who might represent a danger to public health, safety and welfare.
As such, the Appeals Court validated the decision of Aberdeen Township and Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Ronald Reisner to reject Z.L. s firearms purchaser application, which he submitted in January of 2013. According to court records, Z.L. admitted to striking his wife during the 1998 incident, but deemed the behavior an accident. He was subsequently acquitted of the simple assault charge that arose from the incident.
In support of their decision, the Appellate Panel cited an earlier Appellate decision in New Jersey. Specifically, they pointed to the decision of In re Osworth, which was issued in 2008. In this case, the appeals court determined that the scope of New Jersey s Gun Control Law can be expanded to encompass conditions not explicitly stated in the legal language. Judge Kennedy wrote, Even in the absence of evidence that appellant was convicted of any offenses, the New Jersey statute permits denial of his application if the underlying facts of any arrests or reported domestic disputes support such a decision.
Z.L. s attorney indicated that he may choose to bring the case to a higher court, namely, the state Supreme Court, for further consideration. It remains to be seen whether this case will see further adjudication; however, the ultimate determination in this case will spell significant implications for those seeking to purchase firearms in New Jersey.
Overall, the recent ruling calls into question whether a person is truly innocent until proven guilty. If the evidence does not prove beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal court that you committed an act of domestic violence, can it be assumed as fact and used against you in civil court to prove that you may be prone to violent behavior and as such, should not have the benefit of the Second Amendment right to purchase a firearm According to the court s recent decision, the answer is yes.
For additional information regarding this matter, access the following article: Court: Domestic Violence Claims Enough to Deny Gun Permit