Bayonne has banned the carrying of firearms in public buildings, parks, and schools, among other such places. The City Council adopted an ordinance amending certain regulations and exempting extra-duty, off-duty, and retired officers from the ban at its October 19 meeting.
The move follows a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the matter of New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen. The court ruled that a New York law banning the open carrying of firearms was unconstitutional, but indicated that the carrying of firearms can be banned in “sensitive” areas such as government buildings.
The city is addressing this issue by banning the carrying of firearms within any public building owned by the city or the Board of Education, that is, unless the person carrying the firearm is a law enforcement officer. According to the ordinance, the ban has taken effect immediately following its passage.
The ordinance states that “no person shall be permitted to carry any firearm, concealed or otherwise, in any public building at any time.” This is “including all public spaces owned, controlled or otherwise under the jurisdiction of the City of Bayonne, and in any school building or spaces owned, controlled, or otherwise under the jurisdiction of the Bayonne Board of Education.”
The newly adopted ordinance also follows a recent string of gun violence in the city. Officials are looking to address rising crime, and see this as one way of doing that.
Exemptions to the firearms ban in public buildings
An ordinance establishing the ban was initially set to be introduced in August. It was pulled from the agenda by the City Council at the August 17 meeting over questions raised by former law enforcement officers on the council. Retired police officer and City Councilman At-Large Loyad Booker and former Hudson County Sheriff and City Councilman At-Large Juan Perez had concerns regarding which law enforcement officers would still be able to carry firearms under the prohibition.
The original ordinance would have applied to everyone “except for any duly appointed law enforcement officer in the course of his or her official duties.”
After a meeting between retired police captain Mayor James Davis, Police Chief Robert Geisler, Public Safety Director Robert Kubert, and City Council President Gary La Pelusa, as well as Booker and Perez, a provision was added to the ordinance to include that “any retired law enforcement officer who is properly credentialed” from being exempt from the ban too, with the intention to include extra-duty and off-duty law enforcement officers as well.
The City Council introduced the reworked ordinance in September. There was no comment on the ordinance during the September 21 meeting when it was introduced, but the council discussed the measure in depth with a concerned citizen at the October 19 meeting when it was up for adoption.
Resident concerns over restriction on carrying in parks
At the public hearing on the ordinance, resident Matt Coddington asked questions about the scope of the new local law.
“I just received a permit to carry throughout the state, so I just want to clear things up with where you can’t carry,” he said.
According to Coddington, he is not alone in wondering what the new regulations will be, noting that others had also gotten their permit recently.
“I know a lot of people are receiving them right now,” he said. “There’s a massive influx of them.”
Coddington said that people have been asking him about the local regulations as well. That, in addition to his own questions about the ordinance, prompted him to address the council seeking answers.
“A lot of people are calling me, asking,” he said. “Maybe I can help these people out by telling them where they can’t carry. So can you clarify where the municipal buildings, properties would be?”
Council outlines where the firearms ban applies to
La Pelusa said the ordinance applies to any buildings or places under the jurisdiction of the city or the Board of Education.
“It just says the ordinance is for public buildings,” La Pelusa said. “We have many public buildings, I can give you some examples. I don’t know if I’ll cover them all, but schools obviously are public buildings. Anything under the jurisdiction of the Bayonne Board of Education. Obviously, City Hall, the library, public places like that.”
Coddington said that the ban made sense for most of the places it applied to.
“A lot of them do make sense,” he said. “At City Hall, you have the municipal police precinct. There’s plenty of security here. Schools make sense. Actually, its [New Jersey] state law that you can’t carry a firearm through a school, even though there’s 32 states that allow teachers to carry guns to protect themselves and their students. That is what is the state law.”
Coddington raised concern over banning the carrying of firearms in city parks.
“As far as parks, that’s where I raise my concern,” he said. “Just a few months ago, we had two shootings. We had one in Hudson County Park. We had one down Gorman Field. Why do my rights stop at the park? I bring my niece and my nephew, all their family members down there. Is that something where I would lock the gun in the vehicle? It kind of gives a lot of liability. As a responsible firearms owner, these are the things I do want to know.”
Officials unsure if county has similar measure in place
La Pelusa said the ordinance did not apply to the county park, only parks under municipal control.
“This ordinance says under the jurisdiction of the city of Bayonne,” La Pelusa said. “I don’t know about the county of Hudson.”
Coddington said he was aware that Stephen Gregg Hudson County Park was under the jurisdiction of the county, and redirected his question to be about Gorman Field at 1st Street Park and 16th Street Park.
Carrying firearms anywhere “under the jurisdiction of the city of Bayonne, which the parks would be, would be prohibited,” La Pelusa said.
Coddington acknowledged that it was city property and the municipality’s right to ban firearms there.
“I can’t argue it,” Coddington said. “The City of Bayonne owns it. If you come to my house with a firearm, and I tell you that you can’t come in, you can’t come in. That’s my property.”
La Pelusa said the city would look into if the county has already enacted similar regulations for its parks, including Hudson County Park.
“We’ll have to do a little research,” La Pelusa said. “I’m sure we can find it, to see if the county already has some sort of ordinance. They may already have that. So even though it doesn’t come through this board for approval, it may already be in place. I don’t know, we’ll have to do some research on that.”
Enforcement of ordinance at discretion of police officers
La Pelusa reiterated that city parks, such a Rutkowski Park adjacent to Hudson County Park, is under the jurisdiction of the city of Bayonne and the ban would apply there.
Coddington asked hypothetically what the rules would be if someone was redirected into the park while carrying a firearm.
“Let’s just say you’re driving, you have a permit, but you get redirected through a park because of traffic or something going on with the Boulevard,” Coddington said. “You get pulled over for something. I know a lot of this is new to everyone, and hopefully it gets cleared up soon, but that’s where the concern is.”
La Pelusa said he couldn’t determine what a police officer would do in that scenario. Coddington continued to raise concerns over that gray area.
“It’s at the discretion of the police,” La Pelusa said. “Anything under the jurisdiction of the city, it’s clear. For the county, I could find out.”
La Pelusa offered to exchange contact information with Coddington to get more information, but he passed on the offer.
Amendment to exempt off-duty law enforcement officers
The council voted unanimously to adopt the ordinance. Booker said the city would put out guidelines soon as to where firearms can and cannot be carried.
“We’re going to look forward to at least putting out that information,” Booker said. “That way, everybody can understand where they can and cannot carry. This is basically for the safety of the community, giving the present circumstances around the country. So this is not to restrict anyone from their rights to carry. It’s just to keep the citizens safe. I understand what’s happening recently. But we’re going to try to publicize it so people are more aware.”
“All too often, we see acts of violence in public places,” La Pelusa previously told the Bayonne Community News. “Obviously, even in the last six months or so, we’ve seen a lot of violence, gun violence in schools and different public places. So we’re trying to do our part to limit as much of that violent action as possible.”
After the ordinance was adopted, the council introduced another ordinance that would amend the previously adopted ordinance to further delineate exceptions as to who could still carry firearms in places where they are now banned. The ordinance would add a portion specifically adding “any duly appointed off-duty law enforcement” to the exemption.
While the adopted ordinance exempts “any duly appointed law enforcement officer in the course of his or her official duties,” it does not specifically include off-duty law enforcement officers. The amendment ordinance aims to codify that, and will be up for a public hearing at the November meeting of the City Council.
The City Council will meet next on November 9 at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall at 630 Avenue C. For more information, go to bayonnenj.org.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.