TRENTON, N.J. (CN) — In an effort to more easily exercise their right to carry a concealed firearm, retired New Jersey police officers brought a federal lawsuit Monday claiming they shouldn’t have to get a state license because they are automatically granted the right to carry a gun.
Represented by lead attorney Nicholas Harbist with the Princeton firm Blank Rome, Richard Bowen, Joseph Jakubiec and Christopher Martinez argue that the state’s requirement that retired officers must obtain a separate permit for concealed carry violates their rights under the federal Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act.
“The right is concrete and is within the competence of the judiciary to enforce – if an individual meets the statutory criteria of a ‘qualified retired law enforcement officer’ and carries the identification required under LEOSA, he or she is entitled under federal law to carry a concealed firearm,” the 26-page complaint states.
In New Jersey, the unlawful possession of a firearm can carry a sentence of up to nearly four years. The state requires retired police officers to obtain a so-called RPO permit before they are able to carry a concealed firearm.
In order to obtain the RPO permit, a qualified retired officer must pay a $50 fee and file an application with the superintendent of state police, who has the right to deny any application.
If the application is approved, the retired officer must pay another $50 annual fee to renew the permit. The complaint notes that officers over 75 years old are no longer eligible for the state permit, even though they qualify to carry under the federal law.
State Police Superintendent Patrick Callahan – who is named as a defendant in the lawsuit alongside New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewa – allegedly denied applications from both Jakubiec and Martinez, who otherwise qualified under LEOSA. Though Bowen was able to obtain an RPO permit, he says he will not be able to renew it when he turns 75 in a little over a year.
LEOSA, enacted in 2004, allows for qualified retired officers to carry a concealed firearm and hollow point ammunition without prosecution. However, under New Jersey’s RPO permit, retired officers are not allowed to carry hollow point ammunition and they must be carrying the identification card issued by the state to avoid being charged.
The lawsuit asserts that New Jersey is bound by LEOSA to allow retired officers to carry a firearm, and that the state is obligated to make it easy for them to do so.
“LEOSA also imposes a clear and binding obligation on the individual states, including New Jersey, not to impose additional and undue burdens on an individual who is a ‘qualified retired law enforcement officer’ and is carrying the identification required under LEOSA, before he or she may carry a concealed firearm in the state,” the complaint states.
The filing also stresses that active and retired police officers need firearms to keep themselves safe.
“The job of a law enforcement officer never truly ‘ends,’” the lawsuit says. “A firearm is one of many tools that law enforcement officers may use to uphold the law and to protect themselves and their families, as well as other citizens from violent attack.”
Bowen, Jakubiec and Martinez were joined in the suit by the Federal Law Enforcement Officer Association and the New Jersey Fraternal Order of Police. Attorneys for the officers declined to comment on the case.
Representatives for Attorney General Grewa did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.