TRENTON — A commission created by Gov. Chris Christie to examine New Jersey's tough gun ownership and possession laws on Monday recommended the laws be loosened to allow broader access to those seeking to carry a concealed firearm for self-defense.
The New Jersey Firearm Purchase and Permitting Study Commission was established on the eve of Christie's presidential campaign last June.
Late Monday afternoon, the commission released its report through the governor's office, calling on the state to "broaden ... the statutory requirement that an applicant must demonstrate a 'justifiable need' to carry a handgun."
Those who can can demonstrate an urgent need for self-protection "by articulating serious threats, specific threats or previous attacks which demonstrate a special danger to the applicant's life ... could obtain a carry permit if they otherwise qualify."
The commission was created partly in response to the murder of Carol Bowne, a Berlin Township woman murdered in her driveway by her ex-boyfriend, against whom she held a domestic violence protective order, while her application for a handgun permit was still being processed.
"New Jersey citizens should be permitted to defend themselves and not encounter unlawful delays and impediments," Christie said in a statement released to media.
The governor praised the work of the study commission for providing "a set of recommendations that I am proud to wholeheartedly embrace. We will work through the Attorney General to put these changes into effect as quickly as possible."
Paul Loriquet, a spokesman for the state attorney general, said only that his office had "received the recommendations and we'll review them."
The commission, whose members were not previously announced by Christie, is comprised of Adam Heck, a retired police officer from Morristown who until this year worked as as associate counsel to the governor and is currently in the General Counsel's Office of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority; Eric Jaso, a former assistant United States attorney under Christie 2003-2008, and Seton Hall Law School Vice Dean Erik Lillquist, who is married to the governor's chief ethics officer, Heather V. Taylor.
The commission also called for increasing the transparency of the application process by collecting and publishing the amount of time taken by municipalities and state police to consider such applications, and recommended that the Attorney General of New Jersey set a uniform set of criteria for consideration and processing of firearm permit applications.
For those who already legally own firearms, the commission sought clearer guidance for the transport of those guns.