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Know the Laws: New Jersey

UPDATED February 3, 2016

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Guns and Criminal Convictions

back to topIf the abuser has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or felony, can s/he keep or buy a gun?

No. Under Federal law, if your abuser has been convicted of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor, s/he cannot have or buy a gun.* If you're not sure if your abuser has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor, see What crimes are considered domestic violence misdemeanors?

In addition, NJ state law says that if someone has been convicted of any crime or of a disorderly persons offense involving an act of domestic violence, s/he cannot have or buy a gun.**  

Domestic violence offenses include any of the following if against a family or household member:

  • murder,
  • assault (sexual or physical),
  • criminal sexual contact
  • terroristic threats,
  • kidnapping,
  • criminal restraint,
  • criminal mischief,
  • lewdness,
  • false imprisonment,
  • burglary,
  • criminal trespass,
  • harassment, or
  • stalking.***

* 18 USC §922 (g) (9)
** NJ Statutes §§2C:58-3(c); 2C:58-4(f)
*** NJ Statutes §2C:25-19(a)

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back to topWhat crimes are considered domestic violence misdemeanors?

A crime is considered a domestic violence misdemeanor under Federal law if it:

  • Can be defined as a misdemeanor under federal or state law; and
  • Involves physical violence or force, or includes threats made with a deadly weapon; and
  • Was committed by:
    • a current or former spouse;
    • a parent or guardian of the victim;
    • a person with whom the victim shares a child;
    • a person living with the victim as a spouse, parent or guardian; OR
    • a person who has a similar relationship (listed above) with a spouse, parent or guardian of the victim.*

Note: The crime does not have to specifically mention "domestic violence" in order for it to be considered a domestic violence misdemeanor, and for the federal firearm law to apply.** The relationship that the victim has with the offender is what determines whether or not the misdemeanor is a "domestic violence" misdemeanor.***

For example: If Bob is convicted of a misdemeanor assault against his wife, he may no longer have or buy a gun.
If Bob is convicted of a misdemeanor assault against his neighbor, he may still be able to have or buy a gun.

If you're not sure if a certain crime counts as a domestic violence misdemeanor, you can contact the National Center on Full Faith and Credit at 1-800-903-0111, ext. 2

 * 18 USC §921 (a) (33) (A)
** United States v. Kavoukian, 315 F. 3d 139 (2d. Cir. 2002); United States v. Meade, 175 F.3d 215 (1st Cir. 1999).
*** United States v. Denis, 297 F.3d.25 (1st Cir. 2002.); United States v. Costigan, No. 009-B0H, 2000 U.S. Dist. (D. Me. June 16, 2000).

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back to topWhat is the definition of a felony?

A felony under Federal law is a crime that is punishable by a prison sentence of more than one year.*

* 18 USC §227(A) 3559

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back to topIf a law enforcement officer or other government employee is convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or felony, can s/he have or buy a gun?

No. Law enforcement officers and other government officials who have been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or felony cannot have or buy guns for any purpose, including their official duties, according to federal law.*

* 18 USC §925(a)(1)

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back to topHow can I find out if my abuser has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or felony?

Domestic violence misdemeanor and felony records are open to the public, but they are not always easy to access. If you know the exact courthouse where your abuser may have been convicted, you can go to the courthouse and ask the clerk of court for access to those records.

Domestic violence misdemeanor and felony records are also kept in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NCIS). However, no one other than law enforcement officials and licensed firearm sellers are allowed to search the NCIS. Your local police department may be willing to search NCIS for you if you ask, but they are not required to do so.

To read more about the NCIS, please see the question, What will happen if my abuser tries to purchase a gun?

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