"You don't look so bad, here's another" - Bernie Goetz

The Second Amendment does not apply to the states, at least not yet. Unless and until the Supreme Court selectively incorporates it into the Fourteenth Amendment (litigation is pending), states are free to determine how to regulate gun ownership. Some states have provisions in their own constitutions, others do not. In New Jersey, there is no state constitutional right to bear arms. Instead, it derives entirely from statute.

Indeed, New Jersey law heavily restricts gun ownership. Some support this, others oppose it. Without exploring that debate, suffice it to say this is the state's law and policy. Though regulated, obtaining a permit to purchase a weapon, as provided by N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3, is less burdensome than getting a permit to carry, as provided under N.J.S.A. 2C:58-4.

An applicant for a permit to purchase usually applies with the police in the town where he lives. Following an investigation, state law vests the police chief with the authority either to grant or to deny the application based on a grid of factors set forth by the statute. If denied, the police chief is required to send a letter with the reasons for the denial. Upon receiving the denial letter from the police, the applicant has thirty days to request a full hearing in court. Assuming the applicant submits a timely appeal, he is entitled to this hearing no more than thirty days after the court receives the request.

Before the hearing, the applicant has the right to meet with the police chief to discuss the reasons for the denial. This might provide a useful discovery tool for the applicant. But where the window of opportunity is only thirty days, time is clearly of the essence. Therefore, applicants might skip the meeting. At the court hearing, the parties develop a record with testimony from witnesses, and the court may either affirm or reverse the police chief's denial.

Although this post began with a few words about the Second Amendment, the steps described above trigger other constitutional guarantees, namely Procedural Due Process. Generally speaking, Procedural Due Process provides an individual (1) will be provided with notice of pending litigation where he is an interested party, and (2) an opportunity to be heard. New Jersey Rules of Court embrace this. Surprisingly, the opinion below involves a handgun applicant who was denied the opportunity to be heard.

In The Matter of Anthony Dubov (App. Div. 2009).