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Know the Laws: New Jersey

UPDATED February 3, 2016

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WomensLaw.org strongly recommends that you get help from an organization in your area for more information. To find help, please go to the NJ Where to Find Help page.

Basic Info

back to topWhat is the difference between federal and state gun laws?

In these gun laws pages, we refer to both "federal gun laws" and "state gun laws."  The major difference between the two has to do with who makes the law, who prosecutes someone who violates the law, and what the penalty is for breaking the law.

One reason why it is important for you to know that there are these two sets of gun laws is so that you can understand all of the possible ways that the abuser might be breaking the law, and you can better protect yourself.  Throughout this section, we will be referring mostly to state laws.  Be sure to also read our Federal Gun Laws pages to see if any federal laws apply to your situation as well.  You will need to read both state and federal laws to see which ones, if any, the abuser might be violating.

If you are calling the police because you believe the abuser has violated a gun law, you do not necessarily need to be able to tell the police which law was violated (state versus federal) but local police cannot arrest someone for violating federal law, only for violating state/local laws.  Only federal law enforcement, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (“ATF”), can arrest someone for violating federal laws.  If the local police believe that a state law is being violated, they could arrest the abuser and hand the case over to the state prosecutor.  If the local police believe a federal law is being violated, hopefully, the police department will notify the ATF or perhaps the U.S. Attorney’s office in your state (which is the federal prosecutor).  For information on how you can contact ATF directly to report the violation of federal gun laws, go to Who do I notify if I think the abuser should not have a gun?  If the abuser is breaking both state and federal laws, s/he might be prosecuted in both state and federal court.

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back to topI am a victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun. Is that legal?

Possibly.  If you have a restraining order against the abuser, or if the abuser has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor, then federal law states that it is illegal for him/her to buy, own or have a gun in his/her possession if the order meets certain requirements.*  There are certain requirements that your restraining order must meet for it to qualify under federal law.  See I have a restraining order against the abuser. Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun? to read more about what those requirements are.
If you are not sure if the abuser has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or a felony, see What crimes are considered domestic violence misdemeanors? and What is the definition of a felony?

In addition, NJ state law says that a person cannot have or buy a gun or get a handgun permit if:

  • s/he has been convicted of any crime, or a disorderly persons offense, involving an act of domestic violence  - it does not matter whether or not the person was armed with a gun at the time of such offense;
  • s/he is subject to a restraining order against him/her or s/he had a gun that was taken away due to a prior order and not returned;
  • the issuance of the permit would not be in the interest of the public health, safety or welfare;
  • s/he is addicted to drugs or is an alcoholic,
  • s/he is currently, or has ever been, confined for a mental disorder to a hospital or mental institution or sanitarium
  • s/he suffers from a physical defect/disease, which would make it unsafe for him/her to handle firearms,
  • s/he knowingly falsifies any information on the application form for a handgun purchase permit or firearms purchaser identification card;
  • s/he is under the age of 18 years (for a firearms purchaser identification card) or under the age of 21 years (for a permit to purchase a handgun);
  • s/he was, as a juvenile, adjudicated delinquent for an offense which, if committed by an adult, would constitute a crime and the offense involved the unlawful use or possession of a weapon or explosive/destructive device
  • s/he is named on the consolidated Terrorist Watchlist maintained by Terrorist Screening Center administered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.*

* 18 USC § 922(g)(8),(9)
** NJ Statutes § 2C:58-3(c)

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