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AG Hill joins Indiana as amicus against ‘subjective’ handgun permitting

January 28, 2019

Indiana Attorney General Hill has signed the state on to an amicus brief urging the United States Supreme Court to take a case that could decide the constitutionality of may-issue firearm permits requiring citizens to meet subjective standards to publicly carry a weapon.

Led by Arizona, the 23-state amicus brief in Rogers, et al. v. Grewal, et al., 18-824, urges the high court to grant certiorari and strike down a New Jersey law that allows Garden State residents to carry a handgun in public for self-defense only if residents can demonstrate a “justifiable need” for the weapon. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently declined to strike the law.

The petitioner, Thomas Rogers, was denied a handgun carry permit, which he claimed he needed because his job servicing ATM machines requires him to carry large amounts of cash in high-crime areas. According to Hill’s office, Rogers passed the required background check and completed a firearm training course but was denied a permit because the local police chief did not identify a “justifiable need.”

“The Constitution very plainly guarantees that all law-abiding citizens have the right to bear arms,” Hill said in a Monday statement. “Requiring individuals to prove special circumstances in order to ‘qualify’ for this right completely misconstrues the meaning of the Second Amendment. Under such an interpretation, in fact, carrying firearms becomes a privilege granted to a chosen few rather than a right enjoyed by all free people.”

In their brief, the amici states write that of the 42 states that use a “shall-issue” permitting scheme — in which citizens may carry handguns in public if they pass a background check and submit to fingerprinting and a review of their mental health records, among other “objective” requirements — none have chosen to revert to a more-stringent “subjective-issue” system like that employed by New Jersey. Further, the amici argue empirical data defeats arguments claiming that allowing citizens to carry weapons in public increases public violence.

Specifically, the states point to a 2012 study that found concealed carry permit holders were responsible for less than one murder per 400,000 licenses per year, compared to the national average of 18.8 per 400,000 in 2011.

“The numbers directly refute the idea that the public bears some heightened risk when lawful permit holders carry guns outside their homes,” the brief states. “… Such a population is a boon, not a threat, to public safety.”

The amici further argue that objective-issue regimes have been proven to improve public safety. As an example, the brief points to Arizona, which implemented a shall-issue permitting process in 1994, then passed a constitutional carry law in 2010, giving all law-abiding citizens the right to carry a gun even without a license.

According to the brief, the Arizona murder rate fell by 47.6 percent from 1994 to 2016, while the nationwide drop was 41.1 percent. Further, during the same period in New Jersey, the murder rate fell by only 16 percent, the brief says.

Finally, the amici argue that allowing citizens to carry their guns under an objective-issue regime makes it less likely that victims of crime will suffer serious injuries. Further, those victims generally only have to display their weapons, rather than actually pulling the trigger.

“The simple truth is that, as shown above, permit holders are less likely than members of the general public to commit violent crimes, and neither Washington, D.C., nor any state that has a permissive regime has experienced widespread trouble from those who go through the licensing process,” the amici wrote. “… These results have established objective-issue permit regimes as the national standard for public safety with respect to citizen-carry.”

In addition to Indiana and Arizona, states joining the amicus brief include Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.

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