Apr 2020

New Jersey Gun Laws: A Primer

New Jersey gun laws are regarded as some of the more restrictive in the nation.  Unlike the U.S. Constitution, the New Jersey Constitution does not contain a right to “keep and bear arms.”  However, the New Jersey Constitution does refer to “unalienable rights” including “enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and of pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness.”  See N.J. Const. Art. I, §1.

A New Jersey resident, who is not a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, National Guard or of a law enforcement agency, must apply for a Firearm Purchaser ID (“FID”) to obtain a firearm.  Application is made through the chief of police of the full-time police department in the municipality where the applicant resides or to the State Police station servicing the municipality.  In the case of a non-resident, application is made through any State Police station.

The holder of a valid FID is entitled to purchase a rifle or shotgun at any time and without limit.  However, machine guns and “assault rifles” are restricted further.  Handguns require a separate permit to purchase in addition to a FID.  Multiple permits can be obtained at once.  However, handguns are restricted to one purchase per 30-day period.  Additionally, a permit to purchase is good for 90 days, but may be extended to no more than 180 days for good cause in the discretion of the chief of police.

Prerequisites for a FID or handgun permit are the same.  See N.J.A.C. 13:54-1.5. Applicants cannot:

  • have been convicted of a crime or a disorderly persons offense involving an act of domestic violence;
  • be a drug dependent person, or a person who has been confined for a mental disorder, to a hospital, mental institution or sanitarium, or to any person who is presently a habitual drunkard;
  • be a person who suffers from a physical defect or disease which would make it unsafe for him or her to handle firearms;
  • be under 18 for a FID or 21 for a permit to purchase a handgun;
  • be a person where the issuance of a FID or handgun permit would not be in the interest of the public health, safety, or welfare;
  • be a person who is subject to a domestic violence restraining order;
  • be a person who, as a juvenile, was adjudicated delinquent involving the unlawful use or possession of a firearm; or
  • be a person whose firearm was seized pursuant to the Domestic Violence Act and whose firearm was not returned.

A FID or handgun permit may be issued to a person who previously suffered from a physical defect or disease, or mental disorder, or was an alcoholic if the applicant provides a medical certification or other satisfactory proof that the foregoing issues no longer interfere with him or her operating firearms.

Denial of a FID application or handgun permit must be in writing and contain the reason for denial.  Any applicant who is denied, may request a hearing in the Superior Court.  Such appeal must be made in writing within 30 days of the denial on notice to the chief of police and State Police Superintendent.

Once a person has legally obtained a firearm there are further restrictions on possession.  Generally, a person must have a “concealed carry” permit to carry a handgun unless he or she is keeping or carrying it about his place of business, residence, premises owned or possessed by him or her.  Other exceptions affecting possession of a firearm include going to and from rifle or pistol clubs, carrying in the woods or fields for the purpose of hunting, target practice or fishing, and traveling directly to or from any target range.  In the event of traveling, the firearm must be unloaded and locked away.

Please feel free to call Michael W. Kiernan, Esq. of Earp Cohn P.C. if you need legal representation regarding your gun ownership or permitting issues.