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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.

Guns and Restraining Orders

back to topI have an emergency or temporary restraining order against the abuser. Can his/her gun be taken away?

Maybe. You can ask the judge to write in your emergency or temporary order that your abuser cannot have a gun while you are waiting for a full court hearing.  NJ law says that with an emeregency or temporary order, the judge may include this firearm provision.*  However, with a permanent order, the judge shall (must) include in the order that the abuser cannot own or buy a firearm and that the ones s/he has must be taken away during the period that the order is in effect or two years, whichever is greater.  However, if s/he is a police officer or military person, this would not apply to him/her while on duty.**  

However, if there is no specific mention of a firearm restriction in the temporary order, then you may have to wait until you are given a final order.

* NJ Statutes § 2C:25-28(j)
** NJ Statutes § 2C:25-29(b)

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back to topI have a restraining order against the abuser. Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun?

It depends. If the judge checked the box on your Restraining Order that says that your abuser cannot have a gun or buy a new gun or if your abuser has been convicted of a domestic violence offense, then s/he cannot have a gun.  Under NJ state law, any final restraining order should say that the abuser is banned from purchasing, owning, possessing or controlling a firearm and from getting a gun permit during the period in which the restraining order is in effect or two years, whichever is greater. This does not apply, however, to cops or military personnel while on duty.  It is possible that this firearm provision might also be included in a temporary restraining order as well. *

In order for your Restraining Order to qualify under Federal law, the defendant (person who the order is against) must:

  • Be served (given) notice of the court hearing. In other words, the defendant must have been given paperwork that told him or her about the hearing.
  • Have an opportunity to attend the court hearing.
    Note: The abuser does not have to be at the hearing, but s/he has to have the opportunity to come to the hearing.
  • Be an "intimate partner" of the victim, which includes:
    • A current or former spouse
    • A person with whom you share a child
    • A person you live with or have lived with in the past**

Note: If your Restraining Order has expired, it is no longer a valid order under Federal law, which means the firearm ban also does not apply. There is no expiration date written on an NJ Restraining Order because the order is good until and unless the court orders otherwise.***  The date of issue will be written next to the judge’s signature on the last page of the order.

Note: This law may not apply to law enforcement officials, military personnel, and other government employees who use guns while performing official duties.****  If your abuser is a police officer, member of the military, or someone else who uses a gun for their job, talk to your local domestic violence program about your options. See NJ State and Local Programs to find a program in your area.

* NJ Statutes §§2C:25-29(b); 2C:25-28(i) & (j); 2C:58-3(c)
** 18 USC §921 (a)(32)
*** NJ Statutes §§2C:25-28(i); 2C:25-29(d)
**** 18 USC §925 (a)(1)

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back to topMy abuser did not show up for the restraining order hearing. Can his/her gun still be taken away?

Maybe.  The abuser does not have to come to the hearing in order for the law to apply to him/her, but s/he does have to be given notice of the hearing and an opportunity to attend.*

If no hearing is scheduled, and/or no notice is given about the restraining order, then the federal firearm law might not apply to the abuser.**

* United States v. Bunnell, 106 F. Supp. 2d 60 (D. Me. 2000), aff'd 280 F. 3d 46 (1st Cir. 2002)
** United States v. Spruill, 292 F. 3d 207 (5th Cir. 2002)

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back to topIs there anything I can do to make it more likely that the abuser's gun is taken away when I get a restraining order?

To try to make it clear that the abuser cannot have a gun, here are a couple things you may want to ask for in court:

  • If the abuser has a gun, tell the judge how many guns s/he has, and if s/he has ever threatened you with a gun(s).
  • Ask the judge to write in the county sheriff’s office where the abuser has to surrender his/her guns. (Before leaving the courthouse, check to make sure that this is included on your restraining order.)
It also may be helpful if the judge explains what will happen to the abuser's guns, who will take them, and where they will be held once you leave the courthouse. Therefore, you may also want to ask the judge:
  • If it can be written in the order that the police to go to the abuser's house and get the guns;
  • To make it clear to both you and the abuser how long the guns will be kept away from the abuser; and
  • To order that the police notify you when the guns are returned to the abuser.


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