The Office of the Attorney General Defends States’ Rights to Limit Deadly Weapons

New Jersey Co-Leads Multistate Action Backing Delaware’s Restrictions on Assault Weapons and Magazine Capacity;
Joins Supreme Court Suit to Keep Firearms Away from Domestic Abusers

For Immediate Release: August 24, 2023

Office of the Attorney General
– Matthew J. Platkin, Attorney General

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Allison Inserro,

Third Circuit caseU.S. Supreme Court case

TRENTON — In two separate friend-of-the-court filings, the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General stood up to the gun lobby which, once again, is seeking to end common-sense weapon restrictions.

Yesterday, New Jersey co-led an amicus brief on behalf of 18 states supporting Delaware’s assault weapons and large-capacity magazines (LCMs) restrictions in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. In March, the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware upheld these laws against Second Amendment challenge, holding that Delaware’s laws are constitutional. That case is Delaware State Sportsmen’s Association v. Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

And, earlier this week, New Jersey and 25 other states filed an amicus brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a lower court’s dangerous ruling that puts guns back in the hands of domestic violence abusers. In that case, United States v. Rahimi, the Fifth Circuit struck down a federal law barring individuals subject to domestic violence restraining orders from accessing guns. The defendant—who was under a domestic violence restraining order issued by a Texas state court for assaulting his girlfriend—challenged the statute on the ground that it violates the Second Amendment; the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued an opinion earlier this year agreeing.

Both court cases underscore the concrete public-safety risks that common-sense firearm laws like New Jersey’s are tailored to address: Assault weapons and LCMs are designed to inflict mass catastrophic injuries, including by firing high-velocity bullets in a short period of time at long range. Assault weapons and LCMs have been used in many of the deadliest mass shootings in the United States. Similarly, laws that keep guns out of the hands of those subject to domestic violence restraining orders are lifesaving. Indeed, studies have shown that such measures reduce homicides of both intimate partners and law enforcement officers. The Constitution does not require that states turn a blind eye to these facts.

“States are responsible for the public health and safety of their residents and there is no greater health issue in protecting the public’s safety than curtailing gun violence,” said First Assistant Attorney General Lyndsay V. Ruotolo. “That holds true whether we are talking about a victim of domestic violence or shielding New Jerseyans from the kind of mass casualties that are too common as a result of dangerous weapons and features like assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, firearm deaths are at record high levels; in 2020, firearm-related injuries were among the five leading causes of death for people aged 1-44 in the country.

In the Third Circuit case, the state attorneys general collectively argue that Delaware’s restrictions on assault weapons and LCMs are consistent with the Second Amendment because:

  • To encourage public safety, states can and do impose restrictions on dangerous weapons, accessories, and ammunition that pose a threat to communities.
  • Assault weapons and large-capacity magazines are not protected by the Second Amendment because they are not commonly used or suitable for self-defense.
  • Delaware’s laws—like New Jersey’s—are consistent with historical restrictions on new, and distinctly dangerous, forms of weaponry.

The amicus brief was co-led by New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell. It was joined by the Attorneys General of California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

In the U.S. Supreme Court case, the 25 attorneys general noted that nearly every state in the country has enacted a law limiting access to firearms for those subject to domestic violence restraining orders. Federal law bars people subject to domestic violence restraining orders from possessing firearms. The states argue that the appeals court ruling puts at risk domestic violence victims who may be harmed or killed by their abusers. In addition, the ruling hamstrings both the federal government and states in their efforts to protect their residents’ safety.

Besides New Jersey, other states supporting the federal law include Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, as well as the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.