A federal appeals court January 30 upheld a New Jersey gun control law as applied to sales of BB guns and other pellet-firing air guns.

The state’s One Gun Law is not preempted by federal statute, and the plaintiffs did not show they were deprived of any protected right, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held in Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs v. State of New Jersey, 12-1624, affirming denial of injunctive relief and dismissal of the suit.

The One Gun Law, which went into effect on Jan. 1, 2010, says a dealer “shall not knowingly deliver more than one handgun to any person within any 30-day period.” An amendment, with exemptions for gun collectors, shooting competitors and those who inherit guns, was signed Jan. 12, 2010.

The challenge was filed later that month by the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, whose website says it is “the official NRA state association.” Joining in the case were Bob’s Little Sport Shop in Glassboro and four individual gun collectors.

The city of Hackensack was named as a defendant because its police department denied a gun purchase under the One Gun Law.

The plaintiffs contended that the statute conflicts with the Federal Toy Gun Act, which bars states from prohibiting the sale of BB and pellet-firing guns, except for sales to minors.

They also contended that the state statute’s exemptions for certain groups, such as gun collectors and competitive shooters, violate the due process clause because the exemptions are essentially illusory.

The plaintiffs sought to enjoin enforcement of the state law.

District Judge Joel Pisano rejected the plaintiffs’ claims in June 2010.

On appeal, Chief Judge Theodore McKee and Judges Dolores Sloviter and Thomas Vanaskie noted that the federal statute did not prohibit states from regulating sales of BB and pellet guns.

The One Gun Law’s restriction on sales of such guns to one a month is “not a complete prohibition” and not “so onerous as to be a de facto prohibition,” Sloviter wrote for the court.

“Because the One Gun Law regulates but does not prohibit the sale of BB and air guns, it is not prohibited by” the federal law, Sloviter wrote.

As a result, she continued, the state law is not pre-empted.

The appeals court also rejected the plaintiffs’ challenge to forms applicants must submit to qualify for exemptions from the One Gun Law.

The plaintiffs claimed that the forms frustrate the exemption’s purpose by requiring applicants to identify the particular guns they wish to purchase.

They claimed that an average collector finds it difficult to obtain an exemption because the procedure requires the seller to take the gun off the market while the application is processed.

However, Sloviter said, the exemption provision requires applicants to specify which particular handgun they wish to purchase, so the forms do not add further requirements that are so onerous as to deprive applicants of a property interest they may have in the exemptions.

Finding the plaintiffs did not show a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits, the appeals court affirmed the denial of a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the One Gun Law and dismissal of the suit.

The plaintiffs’ attorney, Daniel Schmutter of Greenbaum, Rowe, Smith & Davis in Woodbridge, says his clients are disappointed and are considering their options.

The state was represented by Assistant Attorney General Robert Lougy and Deputy Attorneys General Gregory Spellmeyer and Roshan Shah. A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, Lee Moore, says the agency won’t comment on the ruling.

Charles Toutant is a reporter for the NewJersey Law Journal, a Legal affiliate

 

A federal appeals court January 30 upheld a New Jersey gun control law as applied to sales of BB guns and other pellet-firing air guns