NJ Supreme Court: You Can Answer Your Door Strapped With A Machete

Kevin Daley | Supreme Court Reporter

The Supreme Court of New Jersey handed down an important Second Amendment decision Friday, finding that the Constitution protects the possession of weapons other than firearms in the home.

The case was occasioned in 2012 when a Bradley Beach, N.J. resident, Crisoforo Montalvo, brandished a machete during a confrontation in his doorway with a neighbor. His neighbor called the police, and Montalvo was later convicted of unlawful possession of a weapon, a felony charge.

During deliberations, the jury asked the trial judge if self-defense was a legitimate reason to possess a machete during a confrontation at one’s home. The judge replied it would only be lawful if Montalvo had armed himself “spontaneously to repel an immediate danger.”

New Jersey’s high court found this was incorrect, as a spontaneity requirement would make self-defense impossible.

“The right to possess a weapon in one’s own home for self-defense would be of little effect if one were required to keep the weapon out-of-hand, picking it up only ‘spontaneously.’ Such a rule would negate the purpose of possessing a weapon for defense of the home,” the court wrote.

The court went on to explain that self-defense is a lawful pursuit enshrined in the Second Amendment:

Montalvo legally possessed a machete in his home. It is of no matter whether his possession was for roofing or for self-defense because either would qualify as a lawful purpose. … [T]he Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to possess weapons, including machetes, in the home for self-defense purposes. Thus, Montalvo had a constitutional right to possess the machete in his home for his own defense and that of his pregnant wife.

Writing in the Washington Post, UCLA School of Law professor Eugene Volokh says the ruling is important is important in two respects.

“The New Jersey machete is important because it rejects a ‘spontaneity’ requirement for arming yourself at home (the state’s theory that you could pick up a weapon against an imminent attack, but you can’t come to the door with the weapon just in case),” he writes. “But it’s also important because it reaffirms that the Second Amendment protects not just guns but other weapons as well.”

Montalvo’s case will return to a lower court for further proceedings.

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