Yes, it’s true. New Jersey does, indeed, ban all firearms possession by default. The state then “allows” a person to possess firearms through narrowly carved out exemptions granting “permission” to possess firearms.
New Jersey Gun Law
New Jersey gun law is covered in Title 2C of the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice. There are two primary sections that cover possession, use, sale, etc… of firearms. Those are sections 2C:39 and 2C:58. The laws and corresponding criminal penalties are included in these sections.
To verify the truth in the title of this article, look no further than NJ statutes 2C:39-5, subsections b and c. These two statutes entirely ban handguns, rifles, and shotguns.
Handgun Possession Prohibited in New Jersey
New Jersey’s handgun possession statute states that a person is prohibited from possessing a handgun unless they have first obtained a permit to carry a handgun (PCH). A PCH was nearly impossible to obtain until June of last year when the US Supreme Court ruled in NYSRPA v. Bruen. So, how did people legally possess or acquire handguns if nobody was able to get a carry permit? We’ll get to that later…
2C:39-5(b) – Handguns. (1) Any person who knowingly has in his possession any handgun, including any antique handgun, without first having obtained a permit to carry the same as provided in N.J.S.2C:58-4, is guilty of a crime of the second degree. (2) If the handgun is in the nature of an air gun, spring gun or pistol or other weapon of a similar nature in which the propelling force is a spring, elastic band, carbon dioxide, compressed or other gas or vapor, air or compressed air, or is ignited by compressed air, and ejecting a bullet or missile smaller than three-eighths of an inch in diameter, with sufficient force to injure a person it is a crime of the third degree.
A simplified explanation of this statute is that if a person does not first get the fabled New Jersey Unicorn, a PCH, and they are in possession of a handgun that they would otherwise legally qualify to possess (no felony convictions, etc.), they are guilty of a 2nd Degree Crime. A 2nd Degree Crime conviction calls for a sentence of 5-10 years in state prison. A conviction under this statute, because it involves firearms, carries with it a minimum term of parole ineligibility.
Rifle & Shotgun Possession Prohibited in New Jersey
New Jersey bans possession of rifles and shotguns by default as well. The law states that if a person does not first obtain an FID Card, that person is guilty of a 3rd Degree Crime. A 3rd Degree Crime conviction carries a penalty of 3-5 years in state prison. The statute directly states:
2C:39-5(c) – Rifles and shotguns. (1) Any person who knowingly has in his possession any rifle or shotgun without having first obtained a firearms purchaser identification card in accordance with the provisions of N.J.S.2C:58-3, is guilty of a crime of the third degree.
Guilty Until Proven Innocent
According to New Jersey gun law, a person who possesses a firearm is assumed to be guilty of a crime (called a felony in other states) and the burden is on that person to produce some sort of proof that they are “authorized” to possess it.
The NJ statute which deals with presumptions states:
2C:39-2(b) – When the legality of a person’s conduct under this chapter depends on his possession of a license or permit or on his having registered with or given notice to a particular person or agency, it shall be presumed that he does not possess such a license or permit or has not registered or given the required notice, until he establishes the contrary.
While this presumption doesn’t distinguish between possession, transport, or carry of firearms, it’s a good reminder to all NJ citizens that if we are carrying our concealed firearms with us, we had better make sure we have that permit with us in order to avoid running afoul of New Jersey’s malicious gun laws. In fact, New Jersey’s most recent intentional constitutional disregard, Carry Killer bill A4769/S3214, makes it a 4th Degree Crime for a person to carry their firearm if they don’t have their permit with them. So, even if a person has a valid permit to lawfully carry, if he forgets the permit at home, he risks up to 18 months in state prison.
Firearms Possession Exemptions
Up until this point in the article, we’ve learned about the blanket prohibitions the state places upon our God-given, constitutionally-mandated, Right to Keep & Bear Arms. The next few sections will explain how our civil rights-ignoring, gun-owner-hating, state grants us “permission” to exercise the first half of our 2nd Amendment right. As a reminder, the state completely bans gun possession and then “allows” us to not become felons through narrowly carved out exemptions to the state law.
Throughout the first few sections of New Jersey statute 2C:36-6, the state goes to great lengths to exempt law enforcement, military, security, and other specific classes of people from all of these laws. The State considers these groups more worthy of 2nd Amendment rights than the average, law-abiding, tax-paying citizen.
Firearm Purchase & Acquisition
The exemptions to the gun ban are not automatically granted. A person needs to apply to be eligible for the narrow exemptions, as we will explain in greater detail below.
To be able to purchase any type of firearm in New Jersey, the bare minimum that any prospective gun owner needs is the FID card that we mentioned earlier. A Firearms Purchaser ID Card, sometimes referred to as FPIC or FID card, is really just a government permission slip. An FID card will grant the subject permission to purchase shotguns and rifles, aka long guns. There is no limit to the number of long guns a person can purchase within any given timeframe.
To purchase a handgun in New Jersey, a person needs two things. They need an FID card and a separate handgun purchase permit for each pistol or revolver they’d like to buy. Additionally, NJ gun law prohibits the purchase of more than one handgun every 30 days.
It should also be noted, and this is a widespread problem throughout the state, that it can take quite a long time to obtain either an FID card or a handgun purchase permit. While the law states that a police department must process an application within 30 days, many jurisdictions routinely ignore this timeline. The more respectful jurisdictions issue FID cards and handgun purchase permits within 2-3 weeks. However, we routinely hear of towns that take between six months and a year to do the same. Unfortunately, there is little that can be done to hold these rights-delaying police departments accountable for their blatant disregard of the law. And remember, a right delayed is a right denied.
Gun Possession At Home
After a person purchases or otherwise acquires a gun, what do they do? They bring it home of course.
New Jersey gun law 2C:39-6(e) states that a person may possess or carry firearms in their home, their place of business, and any property owned by that person. This “allowance” is presented as an exemption to the total prohibition on firearms possession. This same statute also authorizes a person to transport, unloaded, in the trunk, and possibly locked (depending on whether the vehicle has a separate trunk) between those places. It also authorizes transport to and from a place of repair, such as a gunsmith.
2C:39-6(e) – Nothing in subsections b., c., and d. of N.J.S.2C:39-5 shall be construed to prevent a person keeping or carrying about the person’s place of business, residence, premises or other land owned or possessed by the person, any firearm, or from carrying the same, in the manner specified in subsection g. of this section, from any place of purchase to the person’s residence or place of business, between the person’s dwelling and place of business, between one place of business or residence and another when moving, or between the person’s dwelling or place of business and place where the firearms are repaired, for the purpose of repair. For the purposes of this section, a place of business shall be deemed to be a fixed location.
Firearms Transportation in New Jersey
There are two essential components to consider when thinking about firearm transportation and compliance with New Jersey gun law. There is the “how” component and there is the “under what circumstances may I transport a firearm” component.
Firearms possession in vehicles, according to New Jersey gun law, is tightly restricted. It is also covered across several statutes.
How A Firearm May Be Transported
New Jersey statute, 2C:39-6(g), covers “how” firearms may be transported. To keep the explanation simple, here are the highlights:
- The gun must be unloaded (note: loaded and unloaded are not defined in NJ gun law)
- The gun must be in a case that is locked, tied, or securely fastened
- If the vehicle has a trunk, the gun must be in the trunk
2C:39-6(g) – Any weapon being transported under paragraph (2) of subsection b., subsection e., or paragraph (1) or (3) of subsection f. of this section shall be carried unloaded and contained in a closed and fastened case, gunbox, securely tied package, or locked in the trunk of the automobile in which it is being transported, and in the course of travel shall include only deviations as are reasonably necessary under the circumstances.
It should also be noted that the statute states that “the course of travel shall include only deviations as are reasonably necessary under the circumstances”. This couldn’t be any less clear but a person of average knowledge can assume this to mean that when driving to/from the range or other place, this might include a gas station, emergency medical treatment, or some other unavoidable events. The attorney general has published some guidance as to what this means.
As one might notice, the statue says nothing of ammunition, magazines being loaded or unloaded, or any special requirements for transportation when a vehicle does not have a trunk. For example, minivans, pickup trucks, SUVs, and hatchbacks generally don’t have a separate and lockable trunk. There is a ton of ambiguity on many aspects of New Jersey gun law covering transportation beyond the statute quoted above. We will cover this subject in greater detail in a future article.
Under What Circumstances Can A Firearm Be Transported
This final section dealing with New Jersey firearms possession exemptions will deal with “when is it ok to have a gun in the car” exemption. These circumstances are narrowly spelled out in New Jersey statute 2C:39-f.
The simplified view of those exemptions to the prohibition on guns in the car are as follows:
- If a person is a member of a gun club that is registered with the state, and that club provides a list of its members to the NJSP, that person may transport firearms back and forth between the club and their home.
- Directly to or from a place of hunting, assuming that hunting is legal in that place and the person has in their possession a valid hunting license.
- Directly to or from any authorized place of target practice, trap/skeet shooting, or similar activity.
- Directly to or from an exhibition (gun show?) which is sponsored by either a law enforcement agency or a gun club. This exemption comes with the requirement that the exhibition was registered with NJSP at least 30 days in advance.
2C:39-6(f) – Nothing in subsections b., c., and d. of N.J.S.2C:39-5 shall be construed to prevent:
(1) A member of any rifle or pistol club organized in accordance with the rules prescribed by the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice, in going to or from a place of target practice, carrying firearms necessary for target practice, provided that the club has filed a copy of its charter with the superintendent and annually submits a list of its members to the superintendent and provided further that the firearms are carried in the manner specified in subsection g. of this section;
(2) A person carrying a firearm or knife in the woods or fields or upon the waters of this State for the purpose of hunting, target practice or fishing, provided that the firearm or knife is legal and appropriate for hunting or fishing purposes in this State and the person has in the person’s possession a valid hunting license, or, with respect to fresh water fishing, a valid fishing license;
(3) A person transporting any firearm or knife while traveling:
(a) Directly to or from any place for the purpose of hunting or fishing, provided the person has in the person’s possession a valid hunting or fishing license; or
(b) Directly to or from any target range, or other authorized place for the purpose of practice, match, target, trap or skeet shooting exhibitions, provided in all cases that during the course of the travel all firearms are carried in the manner specified in subsection g. of this section and the person has complied with all the provisions and requirements of Title 23 of the Revised Statutes and any amendments thereto and all rules and regulations promulgated thereunder; or
(c) In the case of a firearm, directly to or from any exhibition or display of firearms which is sponsored by any law enforcement agency, any rifle or pistol club, or any firearms collectors club, for the purpose of displaying the firearms to the public or to the members of the organization or club, provided, however, that not less than 30 days prior to the exhibition or display, notice of the exhibition or display shall be given to the Superintendent of the State Police by the sponsoring organization or club, and the sponsor has complied with any reasonable safety regulations the superintendent may promulgate. Any firearms transported pursuant to this section shall be transported in the manner specified in subsection g. of this section;
Does Bruen Affect New Jersey Gun Law?
Outside of permits to carry a handgun, it doesn’t….yet. Lawsuits need to be brought against the State in order for Bruen to have an effect.
Everything outlined in this article, which has been law in NJ for many years, is unconstitutional on its face. The Supreme Court spoke clearly in both D.C. v. Heller and NYSRPA v. Bruen.
The quote below, from the final ruling in NYSRPA v. Bruen, should be all that is needed to tear down New Jersey’s system of gun prohibition with a few sprinkles of rationed freedom on top. However, there is much more precedent than just this one incredibly important quote from the high court.
When the Second Amendment’s plain text covers an individual’s conduct, the Constitution presumptively protects that conduct, and to justify a firearm regulation the government must demonstrate that the regulation is consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.U.S Supreme Court opinion in NYSRPA v. Bruen
Why Haven’t These Laws Been Challenged Yet?
This is a common question asked often online. Well, we can’t fight every single unconstitutional law at once. We, meaning, the gun-owning community at large and the statewide 2nd Amendment groups and their lawyers.
The Bruen ruling is only seven months old. The first six months of this time has been spent trying to convince the legislature not to pass the New Jersey Carry Killer bill, A4769/S3214 which essentially makes the entire state of New Jersey off-limits to concealed carry under the guise of “sensitive places” restrictions. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Murphy less than a month ago. Lawsuits were filed within minutes of him signing the bill into law. Concealed carry is currently the big case occupying the gun groups and lawyers at the moment. The battle, which we are likely to win, rages on.
What comes after the concealed carry lawsuits? We don’t know. Maybe the magazine restrictions; maybe the “assault weapon” ban; maybe the laws outlined in this article. It’s anyone’s guess right now. One thing at a time.
Fortunately, for us, the U.S. Supreme Court is on the side of freedom. They are on the side of treating the Constitution with the reverence it deserves.
What Can I Do To See These Laws Change?
Stop whining for one. Open your wallet for another. A little rude, perhaps, but true.
For anyone that spends any length of time in the various Facebook groups, or in NJ Gun Forums or on Reddit, its common to see daily questions like “what is being done for me?”, “when will this lawsuit be filed?”, “something happened?” and “can you please explain everything going on because I’m too lazy to read for myself?”. There are not enough questions in the form of “What can I do to help?“.
Since the vast majority of us are not lawyers, the best thing we can all do is support the various 2nd Amendment groups around New Jersey. Those groups are the ones that have brought the lawsuits regarding the Carry Killer law, and they are doing a superb job. They need resources to fight a government with an unlimited budget. These groups survive on memberships and donations. Without these groups, we’d have less rights in New Jersey than we do already.
A very important thing you can do is get in contact with these groups to be sure this issue is on their radar. The best thing you can do is donate to these groups.