On July 7, 2022, Governor Phil Murphy signed seven laws aimed at “gun control”, one of which purported to regulate “ghost guns”.
New Jersey recently reconsidered their position just prior to this new law going into effect. It would have effectively been the country’s largest gun ban, according to gun law expert, Evan Nappen.
On June 29, the office of the Attorney General sent a memo clarifying their position on a 2019 update to the NJ Criminal Code (N.J.S.A. 2C:39-3(n) and N.J.S.A. 2C:39-9(n)) that attempted to ban “ghost guns”. In a terrifying overreach, it would also have banned BB guns, air rifles (unlike federal law, New Jersey deems these items to be firearms) and any other “firearm” that didn’t have a serial number, (including antique firearms) or has a serial number but not from a federally licensed manufacturer.
The “ghost gun” portion of the new takes effect July 1, 2023.
Although it’s hard to fully quantify just how many firearms would have been deemed illegal under the new law, given the ubiquitous nature and popularity of BB guns, air rifles and antique firearms, it would have been consequential. According to Dan Schmutter, who lead the discussions with the AG office, “The number of firearms it made illegal overnight was enormous.” And it would likely have brought immediate legal action from gun owners and Second Amendment groups were it not for behind the scenes conversations to try to resolve the issue.
In fact, the NJ affiliate of the NRA, the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs (ANJRPC) was tremendously influential in getting the state to reconsider its position. In an e-mail to members, they made the following statement:
The guidelines were issued after extensive discussion between ANJRPC and representatives of the Attorney General’s office. The discussions were led by attorney Dan Schmutter with input from attorney Evan Nappen….
Even limited by these guidelines, the “ghost gun” law is still an unacceptable infringement on the right to keep and bear arms. Nevertheless, gun owners no longer need to fear the unintended impacts of the law, and ANJRPC is pleased to have achieved this result without resort to litigation.
(New Jersey is already embroiled in multiple lawsuits stemming from their December, 2022 “carry killer” law that attempts to make the entire state a “sensitive area” and thus prohibit the carrying of legally-owned concealed handguns under the state’s new Permit to Carry scheme.)
In the June 29 memo, the office of the AG acknowledges that:
Significantly, the definition of a “firearm” is more limited under federal law than it is under New Jersey law…
Perhaps in an attempt to stave off further costly lawsuits, the state decided to side with federal law and rolled back their ban on these commonly-owned “firearms” that may not have had a serial number (often for good reason).
Accordingly, federal law does not require firearms that use air, carbon dioxide, or springs to expel a projectile; antique firearms; and firearms manufactured prior to the effective date of 18 U.S.C. § 923(i) to be imprinted with an individual serial number. N.J.S.A. 2C:39-3(n) and N.J.S.A. 2C:39-9(n) shall be enforced likewise.
The new guidance specifically address the following:
- Firearms that use air, carbon dioxide, or springs to expel a projectile, such as pellet or “BB” guns;
- Antique firearms; and
- Firearms manufactured before 1968, when federal law first began requiring that firearms be imprinted with individual serial numbers
For those wondering about imported firearms, a footnote at the bottom of the memo reads:
1 For purposes of this guidance, consistent with the cited federal law and regulation, the reference to “federally licensed manufacturer” in N.J.S.A. 2C:39-3(n) and N.J.S.A. 2C:39-9(n) shall be deemed to include federally licensed importers.
If you live in New Jersey and are not already a member, we highly recommend being a member or further donating to groups like ANJRPC that continue to fight for our Second Amendment rights.