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Claiming New Jersey’s gun permit laws are derived from slavery and motivated by racism, a man denied a license is set to have his case reviewed by the nation’s high court next month.
Marc Stephens, representing himself, argues he has a Constitutional right under the Second and Fourteenth amendments to keep and bear arms at home and in public, which the state of New Jersey has denied him even though he has had multiple death threats. His petition is set to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in its Feb. 17 conference but has been winding its way through the legal system since 2013.
Stephens, who legally owned a firearm in California, was told by officials with the Englewood, New Jersey police department that he could not bring his gun to the Garden State without a permit. Six months after filing for a permit through the agency, he was denied with officials citing he did not have a “justifiable need” to own a gun. This led Stephens to file a case in a local court seeking to overturn the denial, which was dismissed in March 2014.
Switching to federal jurisdiction, subsequent motions for reconsideration in the U.S. District Court and the Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit were swatted away, leading Stephens to petition the Supreme Court late last year.
In his filing, Stephens argues that laws in New Jersey dating back to 1694 have discriminated against gun ownership based on race and the remnants of those laws endure today, in violation of equal protection mandates of the Fourteenth Amendment. Stephens maintains the state’s current firearm permit and licensing scheme was originally “passed through its legislature based on ‘Race Discrimination’” and is seeking to have it overturned by the high court.
Second Amendment scholars have long held the legal foundation of gun control was laid in oppressive pro-slavery and later Jim Crow-era laws.
Both sides of the gun control argument have unsuccessfully invoked equal protection laws in federal court in recent years with a group of University of Texas professors asking for an injunction against campus carry and a filing by a gun rights group against carving out former law officers from a campus carry ban in California, with each case tanking.
Although the Supreme Court receives thousands of petitions each year, the number granted is few, typically 100 or less. Granting a petition requires the votes of four justices, something the court has declined to do in several recent gun rights cases sent up from the Circuits even with a full bench.
Stephens did not respond to a request for comment from Guns.com.