IN THE MATTER OF THE APPLICATION FOR A RETAIL
FIREARMS DEALER'S LICENSE RENEWAL BY CAYUSE CORP.
LLC, T/A WILD WEST CITY
In this appeal from the denial of a retail firearms dealer license under N.J.S.A. 2C:58-2, we hold that a trial court must conduct a hearing on a contested license application, providing the applicant notice and an opportunity to be heard. A court may not, as was done here, deny an application based on the State's ex parte submission, without notice to the applicant.
Nor was that procedural deficiency cured by offering the applicant a de novo "appeal" before the same judge. We hold an applicant bears the burden to prove its entitlement to the license; but, the State generally bears the burden to produce evidence as to its reasons for opposing licensure. When the State's opposition is based on criminal charges, the State must present competent evidence of underlying facts.
We vacated the orders denying the applicant's license application, but declined to order issuance of the license, as the applicant sought. Instead, the applicant must file a new application, which shall be considered in accord with the principles we described.