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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.

More Information and Where to Get Help

back to topIf the abuser's gun(s) is taken away, what will happen to it?

If your restraining order says that your abusers gun(s) must be taken away, a police officer should take any gun(s) your abuser has in his possession and may give the gun(s) to the county prosecutor.  The law enforcement agency that takes the gun(s) will likely store them until the order expires or for two years, whichever is greater.*  Within 45 days of the guns being taken from the abuser, however, the prosecutor has the option of filing legal papers with the court to object to the guns being returned, to obtain title to the weapons or to revoke any and all gun permits.**  If the judge agrees, the guns may never be returned to the abuser.

* See NJ Statutes §2C:25-29(b)
** NJ Statutes §2C:25-21(d)(3)

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back to topWho do I notify if I think the abuser should not have a gun?

If you think the abuser is violating state firearm laws, you can call your local police or sheriff department or the State Police.  If you think the abuser is violating federal firearm laws, you can call the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).

You can find contact information for sheriff departments in your area on our NJ Sheriff Departments page.

You can find ATF field offices in New Jersey on the ATF website.  For reporting illegal firearm activity, a person can also call 1-800-ATF-GUNS (1-800-283-4867).  Many ATF offices have victim advocates on staff (called “victim/witness coordinators”) and so perhaps you may ask to speak one of these advocates if you are having a hard time connecting with (or receiving a call back from) an ATF officer.

A local domestic violence organization in your area may also be able to answer your questions and assist you in talking to the necessary law enforcement officials.  You will find contact information for organizations in your area on our NJ State and Local Programs page.

Note: Generally, the abuser does not have to have knowledge of the law in order to be arrested for breaking the law.  If the abuser has or buys a gun in violation of the law, the abuser can be arrested, whether or not s/he knows that s/he was in violation of the law.*

* United States v. Lippman, 369 F. 3d 1039 (8th Cir. 2004); United States v. Henson, 55 F. Supp. 2d 528 (S.D. W.V. 1999)

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back to topWhat is the penalty for violating state or federal firearm law?

Anyone who owns, has or buys a gun in violation of the federal firearm law can be punished by a fine, jail time for up to 10 years, or both.*

Under NJ state law, an intentional violation of a restraining order is a crime in the 4th degree** and is punishable by jail time of up to 18 months, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.***  Therefore, assuming that your restraining order has a "no gun" provision written into the order by the judge, if the abuser is caught with a gun, s/he could face these penalties (in addition to any other penalties that s/he may face for having a gun).

* 18 USC § 924(a)(2)
** NJ Statutes § 2C:29-9(b)
*** NJ Statutes §§ 2C:43-6(a)(4); 2C:43-3(b)(2)

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back to topI do not have a restraining order against the abuser and s/he has not been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or felony. Can s/he have a gun?

It depends. There are other reasons (aside from a conviction for a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor and aside from having a restraining order issued against someone) why it would be illegal for a person to have a gun in NJ.  Under NJ state law, a person cannot have or buy a gun or get a handgun permit if:

  • the issuance would not be in the interest of the public health, safety or welfare; or
  • if any of the following are true - if s/he:
    • s/he had a gun that was taken away due to a prior order and not returned;
    • is addicted to drugs or is an alcoholic;
    • is currently, or has ever been, confined for a mental disorder to a hospital or mental institution or sanitarium;
    • suffers from a physical defect/disease, which would make it unsafe for him/her to handle firearms;
    • knowingly falsifies any information on the application form for a handgun purchase permit or firearms purchaser identification card;
    • 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);
    • 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; or
    • is named on the consolidated Terrorist Watchlist maintained by Terrorist Screening Center administered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.*

If any of these fits your situation, please talk to a lawyer or advocate in your area about how this law is being enforced and what steps you can take to help enforce it. 

If none of these situations apply, you can still make a plan for your safety. See our Staying Safe page for more information. You can also contact your local domestic violence organization for additional help. You may want to talk to them about whether leaving the area - either long term or for a little while - might help improve your safety. See our NJ State and Local Programs page to find a local domestic violence organization near you.

For additional information on gun laws in New Jersey, you can go to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence website.

* NJ Statutes § 2C:58-3(c)

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back to topWhat will happen if the abuser tries to purchase a gun?

Before purchasing a gun from a licensed firearm dealer, all buyers must undergo a criminal background check that is processed through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).  If the abuser has a qualifying protection order against him/her, or has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor in any state, those records should be in the NICS, which should prevent the abuser from buying a gun.  Not all states have automated record keeping systems, making it more difficult to process the criminal background check, and some criminals and abusers do slip through the system.  Also, it is important to know that background checks are not required for private and online gun sales.  

If the abuser is able to purchase a gun and you believe that s/he should not be able to have one under the law, you can alert the police, and ask that his/her gun be taken away and perhaps the police will investigate.  Generally, it is not a good idea to assume that because the abuser was able to buy a gun, it is legal for him/her to have one.

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back to topMy abuser uses a gun for his job. Does the law still apply?

According to NJ state law, if your abuser is a law enforcement officer, military employee or government employee, then s/he will be able to continue to use his/her gun for work purposes, but not for personal use.*

However, if your abuser has been convicted of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor, then under federal law, your abuser cannot buy or have a gun, even if s/he is a police officer or a military employee.**

If you are confused or not sure whether your abuser can still use their gun for work purposes, you can talk to a domestic violence advocate in your area or call the National Center on Full Faith and Credit to find out more information: 1-800-903-0111, ext. 2
To find a domestic violence advocate in your area, please go to our NJ Where to Find Help page.

* NJ Statutes §2C:25-29(b)
** 18 USC §925 (a)(1)

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back to topI've read through all of this information, and I am still confused. What can I do?

Trying to understand both Federal and State law can be confusing, but there are people out there who can help you better understand the law and your rights under the law.

  • You can write to our Email Hotline.
  • You can contact a local domestic violence organization in your area (See our NJ State and Local Programs page).
  • You can also contact the National Center on Full Faith and Credit to get more information about the federal firearm law and how it applies to you: 1-800-903-0111, ext. 2

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