Firearms Possession in New Jersey
This guide is written to help citizens navigate New Jersey’s draconian gun laws. It is not legal advice nor is it substitute for the counsel of a lawyer.
New Jersey has some of the strictest firearms regulations in the United States. What neighboring state Pennsylvania enshrines as constitutional rights, New Jersey calls a felony. Limits on magazine capacity, strict licensing procedures, and a banned list of so-called assault weapons make New Jersey a hostile place for legal gun owners. Loosely worded laws and policies clash with both neighboring states and Federal firearms legislation. For that matter, New Jersey has even crafted a unique definition of the word “firearm” not shared by the Federal Government or any of the 49 states.
How to Legally Possess a Gun in NJ
New Jersey has incredibly strict requirements to purchase a firearm. All sales and transfers of ownership must go through a licensed firearms dealer, with the sole exception of inherited firearms.
- Be 18 years of age for long guns or 21 years of age for handguns.
- Possess a valid New Jersey Firearms Purchasers Identification Card (FPID).
- (Handguns Only) Present a valid pistol purchase permit from the local police department.
- Complete a Certificate of Eligibility.
- Pass a National Instant Criminal Check System (NICS) scan.
Legally Transporting Firearms in New Jersey
Without a legal purpose, no person may transport firearms in the State of New Jersey. What constitutes a legal purpose?
- Taking a newly purchased firearm home from the dealer.
- Taking a broken firearm to the gunsmith.
- Traveling to and returning from a gun range.
- Moving to a legal place to engage in hunting or trapping.
In New Jersey, all firearms must be transported in a securely fastened case, unloaded, and seperate from the ammunition. If transporting a gun in a car, it should not be accessible from the passenger compartment. If the gun must be carried in the passenger compartment, it MUST be in a locked container. It is illegal to carry a pistol or ammunition in the glovebox, even a locked one.
Muzzleloading firearms have a special definition of “unloaded”. Since the charge of ball and powder cannot be easily removed without firing, huntsman with a Muzzleloading Rifle permit can travel to state gamelands with “charged” muskets and rifles as long as the gun is not primed to fire. Extra shot and powder must still be stored separately.
Concealed Carry NJ
Surprisingly for a state with the nation’s strictest gun laws, there is a legal process to obtain a permit to carry a gun in public.This permit is almost impossible to obtain. This license to carry firearms applies to open and concealed carry.
On paper, the permit may be issued if a citizen demonstrates the need to be armed. In practice, these permits are flatly refused to private citizens. New Jersey’s permit is normally issued only to civilian security personnel or armoured car drivers.
The State of Jersey has no reciprocity agreements with other states. This means New Jersey does NOT honor other states concealed carry permits.
What is the penalty for concealed carry without a permit?
Under the Graves Act, gun crimes carry mandatory sentencing. This means the penalty for concealed carry without a permit is a minimum of five years in state prison. Judges are not allowed to show leniency. Carrying a gun in public without a permit is a felony, and New Jersey takes these crimes very seriously. As the laws stand in 2018, the minimum penalty for carrying a gun without a license is just as harsh as that for manslaughter.
Illegal Possession of Firearms in New Jersey
What does illegal possession mean?
In New Jersey, illegal possession of a firearm can be interpreted two ways. There are certain weapons that are illegal for someone to have or own under any circumstances. Possessing them on private property— even unloaded in a gun safe— is explicitly illegal.
Then there are all other guns. They are legal to own, but to possess them in public without a legal reason is still a crime. And using a gun while committing a crime is itself a crime.
Guns That Are Illegal To Own – No Exceptions
- Assault Weapons: New Jersey defines assault weapons as semi-automatic rifles that have more than two military features. These features include pistol grips, bayonet mounts, grenade launchers, threading to accept a sound suppressor, and folding stocks. The Assault Weapons Ban specifically names many brands of assault rifles, but any other guns patterned on the AR-15 or AK-47 platforms with two of the “evil” features are also banned. There are a few odd additions to ban, like the historic M1 Carbine used in WWII. It is advisable to review the list of banned firearms before making any out-of-state purchase.
- Machine Guns: New Jersey residents cannot own machine guns. These are guns which fire more than one bullet each time the trigger is pulled. Even legally owned machine guns Federally registered under the National Firearms Act cannot be brought into the State of New Jersey.
- Short Barreled Rifles and Shotguns: Like machine guns, these federally licensed guns cannot be brought into New Jersey.
- Sound Suppressors: Even on air rifles, these safety devices are illegal under New Jersey law. Don’t make the mistake of assuming a legally owned suppressor can be brought into New Jersey.
- Revolving Shotguns: Any shotgun that holds its shells in a revolving cylinder is illegal.
- High Capacity Firearms: Under the old Assault Weapons laws, magazines were limited to 15 rounds. This includes antiques where the magazine is integral to the gun and not removable. Recently passed legislation could lower the capacity to 10 rounds.
When is it a crime to possess a legally owned firearm?
New Jersey gives residents few legal reasons to carry a gun. Besides having a concealed carry permit, guns can be possed outside of the home in limited circumstances:
- While hunting or trapping. The gun must meet hunting regulations and all tags and permits must be in the sportsman’s possession.
- At a licensed gun range.
- In the owner’s home and property.
- Small business owners may carry a gun inside their own shop.
Carrying a gun for any other reason is a crime.
Are BB Guns Legal in New Jersey?
New Jersey’s strange weapons laws treat BB Guns as real firearms. They are legal to own, but require all the same licenses as a real gun. BB Pistols require a valid pistol purchase permit, and BBs or pellets must be stored separately from the unloaded weapons.
Airsoft guns and paintball markers are not normally considered firearms, but will be treated as weapons if carried in the comission of a crime.
All of the laws about carrying a real pistol or rifle in public apply to a BB gun. It’s a crime to carry one in public, or loaded in a vehicle.
Are hollow point bullets legal in New Jersey?
Soft lead hollow point bullets are illegal in most circumstances in New Jersey. There are a few ways a resident can legally own them, but without a legal reason possessing them is a crime.
- Hollow point bullets are commonly used for hunting with handguns. While New Jersey doesn’t allow it, neighboring states like Delaware do. Possessing hollow points would be legal in combination with the appropriate hunting license and firearms.
- Those legally engaged in target shooting may possess hollow point bullets.
Are armor piercing bullets legal in New Jersey?
No. Under both New Jersey and Federal law, any hardened-core ammunition specially designed to defeat body armor (such as tungsten carbide rounds) are illegal. This ban does not apply to the metal-jacketed “ball” ammunition sold as military surplus, but only to rounds designed specifically to penetrate armor.
What to do if charged with illegal firearm possession?
New Jersey’s gun laws are difficult to understand. This is no accident. The laws were written by legislatures which intended to restrict civilian firearm ownership as far as Constitutionally possible.
If law enforcement finds you in possession of a firearm, they have to make a quick field interpretation of pages of legislation spread across a half dozen statues and countless unwritten policies. Unsurprisingly, they often make the wrong interpretation, and a legal gun owner is taken away in handcuffs.
If you find yourself accused of illegally possessing a firearm, the justice system will quickly move against you. Having a criminal defense attorney on your side can be the difference between a decade in jail and freedom. If you need an attorney to fight gun charges in the South Jersey area, contact Ken Aita today.