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Legal Information: New Jersey

New Jersey State Gun Laws

State Gun Laws

Below is information about state gun laws in New Jersey. A restraining order or criminal conviction may make it illegal for an abuser to have a gun. However, in addition to these state-specific laws, there are also federal gun laws that could apply. To fully understand all of the legal protections available, it is important that you also read the Federal Gun Laws pages.

Please consider getting in touch with a domestic violence advocate in your community for more information on gun laws in your area. To find help in your area, please go to the NJ Places that Help page.

Basic Info and Definitions

What 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.

What is the definition of a felony?

In New Jersey, felonies are referred to as “indictable offenses.” (In comparison, misdemeanors are referred to as “non-indictable offenses,” “disorderly persons offenses” or “petty disorderly persons offenses.”) The term “indictable” refers to the fact that the prosecutor will seek an “indictment” from a grand jury before charging someone with a crime. There are four degrees of indictable offenses in New Jersey, with the lowest (4th degree) carrying a possible prison term of up to 18 months in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.1

1 NJ Stat. §§ 2C:43-6; 2C:43-3(b)(2)

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

New Jersey state law says that a person cannot get a “handgun purchase permit” or a “firearms purchaser identification card” if:

  • s/he was convicted of any “crime” (in other words, an “indictable offense,” which is referred to in other states as a felony);1
  • s/he was convicted of a “disorderly persons offense” (referred to as a misdemeanor in other states) that involves an act of domestic violence, which includes any of the following crimes when committed against a family or household member:
  • s/he is subject to a restraining order against him/her that prohibits him/her from possessing a firearm;
  • s/he had a gun that was taken away under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act and it was 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; or
  • s/he is named on the consolidated Terrorist Watchlist maintained by Terrorist Screening Center administered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.1

In addition, it is a crime of the 2nd degree under New Jersey state law for anyone who was convicted of any of the following crimes, or an attempt or conspiracy to commit any of the following crimes, to possess a firearm or ammunition:

  • aggravated assault;
  • arson;
  • burglary;
  • escape;
  • extortion;
  • homicide;
  • kidnapping;
  • robbery;
  • aggravated sexual assault;
  • sexual assault;
  • bias intimidation;
  • endangering the welfare of a child;
  • stalking;
  • carjacking;
  • gang criminality;
  • racketeering;
  • terroristic threats;
  • unlawful possession of a machine gun, handgun, or assault firearm;
  • leader of firearms trafficking network;
  • a crime involving domestic violence or an attempt or conspiracy to commit a crime involving domestic violence;
  • certain drug crimes or an attempt or conspiracy to commit certain drug crimes (listed here in (b)(1));
  • certain crimes involving possession of prohibited weapons and devices (listed here in (b)(1)).3

It is a crime of the 3rd degree under New Jersey state law for someone to possess a firearm or ammunition if:

  • s/he was convicted of a disorderly persons offense involving domestic violence;
  • s/he is subject to an extreme risk protection order;
  • his/her firearm was seized (taken by police) pursuant to the “Prevention of Domestic Violence Act” and was not returned; or
  • there is a court order prohibiting the possession of firearms issued pursuant to the “Prevention of Domestic Violence Act” (except this does not apply to law enforcement officers while on duty, or to any member of the Armed Forces of the United States or member of the National Guard while on duty or traveling to or from an authorized place of duty).4

Note: These convictions listed above do not necessarily have to have taken place in a New Jersey court. If the abuser was convicted of a similar crime in another state, territory, commonwealth or other jurisdiction of the United States, or even in any country in the world (if it was in a court of “competent jurisdiction”), the law would still apply.5

If any of these situations apply to the abuser, it may be illegal for him/her to have a gun. Also, federal laws, which apply to all states, restrict an abuser’s right to have a gun if you have a restraining order against him/her that meets certain requirements or if s/he has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.

1 NJ Stat. § 2C:58-3(c)
2 NJ Stat. §§ 2C:58-3(c); 2C:25-19(a)
3 NJ Stat. § 2C:39-7(b)(1)
4 NJ Stat. § 2C:39-7(b)(2), (b)(3), (b)(4)
5 NJ Stat. § 2C:39-7(c)

Guns and Restraining Orders

I 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 the abuser cannot have a gun while you are waiting for a full court hearing but it will be up to the judge. New Jersey law says that with an emergency or temporary order, the judge can (but doesn’t have to) do any of the following:

  • prohibit the abuser from possessing any firearm or other weapon;
  • order the search for, and seizure of, any firearm or other weapon at any location where the judge has reasonable cause to believe the weapon is located;
  • order the seizure of any “firearms purchaser identification card” or “permit to purchase a handgun” issued to the defendant; and
  • order any other appropriate relief.

If the judge does order that the abuser cannot have firearms, then the judge must require that a law enforcement officer accompany the abuser (or go without the abuser if necessary) to any place where any firearm or other weapon is located and take possession of them. If the restraining order prohibits the abuser from going to the place where firearms or other weapons belonging to the defendant are located, the law enforcement officer will go without the abuser and seize (take) them.1



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. The removal of firearms is required by law with a final restraining order. See I have a final restraining order against the abuser. Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun? for more information.

1 NJ Stat. § 2C:25-28(j)

I have a final restraining order against the abuser. Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun?

No.  Under New Jersey law, in any restraining order issued after a hearing, the judge must:

  1. prohibit the defendant from purchasing, owning, possessing or controlling a firearm; 
  2. prohibit the defendant from getting or keeping a firearms purchaser identification card or a permit to purchase a handgun;  
  3. require that the abuser immediately surrender any of his/her firearms or other weapons (such as knives) to law enforcement.1

The prohibitions in #1 and #2, above, will be in effect for as long as the restraining order is in effect or for two years, whichever is longer.

In order for law enforcement to get the firearms, an officer must accompany the abuser (or may go without the abuser if necessary) to any place where any firearm or other weapon is located and take possession of them.  If the restraining order prohibits the abuser from going to the place where firearms or other weapons belonging to the defendant are located, the law enforcement officer will go without the abuser and seize (take) them.  

Note: These prohibitions do not apply to an abuser who is a law enforcement officer while actually on duty, or to any member of the U.S. Armed Forces or a member of the National Guard while actually on duty or traveling to or from an authorized place of duty.2

In addition, federal laws, which apply to all states, restrict an abuser’s right to have a gun if you have a restraining order against him/her that meets certain requirements even if the judge does not specifically include on the order that s/he cannot have a gun.  Go to the Federal Gun Laws page to get more information.

1 NJ Stat. § 2C:25-29(b) & (b)(16)
2 NJ Stat. § 2C:25-29(b) 

 

Guns and Criminal Convictions

If the abuser has been convicted of a crime, can s/he keep or buy a gun?

New Jersey state law says that a person cannot get a “handgun purchase permit” or a “firearms purchaser identification card” if:

  • s/he was convicted of any “crime” (in other words, an “indictable offense,” which is referred to in other states as a felony);1
  • s/he was convicted of a “disorderly persons offense” (referred to as a misdemeanor in other states) that involves an act of domestic violence, which includes any of the following crimes when committed against a family or household member:
  • as a juvenile, s/he was 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.2

In addition, it is a crime of the 2nd degree under New Jersey state law for anyone who was convicted of any of the following crimes, or an attempt or conspiracy to commit any of the following crimes, to possess a firearm or ammunition:

  • aggravated assault;
  • arson;
  • burglary;
  • escape;
  • extortion;
  • homicide;
  • kidnapping;
  • robbery;
  • aggravated sexual assault;
  • sexual assault;
  • bias intimidation;
  • endangering the welfare of a child;
  • stalking;
  • carjacking;
  • gang criminality;
  • racketeering;
  • terroristic threats;
  • unlawful possession of a machine gun, handgun, or assault firearm;
  • leader of firearms trafficking network;
  • a crime involving domestic violence or an attempt or conspiracy to commit a crime involving domestic violence;
  • certain drug crimes or an attempt or conspiracy to commit certain drug crimes (listed here in (b)(1));
  • certain crimes involving possession of prohibited weapons and devices (listed here in (b)(1)).3

It is a crime of the 3rd degree under New Jersey state law for someone to possess a firearm or ammunition if:

  • s/he was convicted of a disorderly persons offense involving domestic violence;
  • s/he is subject to an extreme risk protection order;
  • his/her firearm was seized (taken by police) pursuant to the “Prevention of Domestic Violence Act” and was not returned; or
  • there is a court order prohibiting the possession of firearms issued pursuant to the “Prevention of Domestic Violence Act” (except this does not apply to law enforcement officers while on duty, or to any member of the Armed Forces of the United States or member of the National Guard while on duty or traveling to or from an authorized place of duty).4

Note: These convictions listed above do not necessarily have to have taken place in a New Jersey court. If the abuser was convicted of a similar crime in another state, territory, commonwealth or other jurisdiction of the United States, or even in any country in the world (if it was in a court of “competent jurisdiction”), the law would still apply.5

If any of these situations apply to the abuser, it may be illegal for him/her to have a gun. Also, federal laws, which apply to all states, restrict an abuser’s right to have a gun if s/he was convicted of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.

1 NJ Stat. §§ 2C:58-3(c); 2C:25-19(a)​
2 NJ Stat. § 2C:58-3(c)
3 NJ Stat. § 2C:39-7(b)(1)
4 NJ Stat. § 2C:39-7(b)(2), (b)(3), (b)(4)
5 NJ Stat. § 2C:39-7(c)

How can I find out if the abuser has been convicted of a crime?

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 the 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 (NICS). The National Instant Criminal Background Check System is used by Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) to instantly determine whether someone is eligible to receive firearms or explosives.1  However, no one other than law enforcement officials and licensed firearm sellers are allowed to search the NICS. Your local police department may be willing to search NICS for you if you ask, but they are not required to do so.

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

1 National Criminal Justice Reference Service website

The Abuser Isn't Supposed to Have a Gun...Now What?

If the abuser's gun is taken away, what will happen to it?

If the gun is taken away as part of your restraining order, a law enforcement officer will accompany the abuser to any place where the firearm is located and take possession of the firearm(s). If the restraining order prohibits the abuser from going to the place where his/her firearms or other weapons are located or if the abuser cannot or will not accompany the officer for other reasons, the law enforcement officer will go without the abuser and seize (take) the firearms.1

If the gun is taken away by law enforcement due to an arrest for domestic violence (after a 911 call, for example), the law enforcement officer will deliver the firearm (along with any “firearms purchaser identification card” or “permit to purchase a handgun”) to the county prosecutor.2 Within 45 days, the prosecutor has the option to file a petition with the judge to:

  • object to the weapons being returned to the abuser;
  • ask for title to the seized weapons; and/or
  • ask that any and all permits, licenses and other authorizations for the use, possession, or ownership of such weapons to be revoked (cancelled).3

If the prosecutor files this petition, s/he would have to notify the abuser of the petition and then a hearing would be held (where the abuser can be present). At the hearing, the judge would decide whether or not to return the firearms. The firearms can be returned if:

  • the victim “drops the charges” and the prosecutor believes there is not enough evidence to have the abuser indicted without the victim’s cooperation;
  • the abuser is not indicted by the grand jury on the criminal charges;
  • the abuser is found “not guilty” after a trial; or
  • if the judge decides that the “domestic violence situation” no longer exists.3

If, after the hearing, the judge determines that the weapons should not be returned to the abuser, the judge could do any of the following:

  1. order the revocation (cancelation) of the owner’s firearms purchaser identification card or any permit, license or authorization;
  2. order the abuser to surrender any other firearms s/he owns to the prosecutor; and
  3. allow the abuser to arrange for the sale of the firearms to a registered dealer of the firearms – but if this is not done within 60 days, the prosecutor would instead have the firearms destroyed.4

However, once a defendant is found guilty of a crime or offense involving domestic violence, different standards apply that those listed in 1-3 above. The judge will order the defendant to arrange for the immediate surrender to law enforcement of any firearm that has not already been seized or surrendered. Any firearms purchaser identification card or permit to purchase a handgun will be considered immediately revoked and the abuser will have to turn those in to law enforcement as well. The defendant then has 5 business days to arrange for the sale of any of the surrendered firearms to a licensed retail firearms dealer if s/he chooses to do so (and the firearms dealer has to get the firearms from law enforcement within 10 business days of when the judge ordered the surrender of the firearms). Otherwise, the firearms will be destroyed. Once the abuser gives the firearms to law enforcement, s/he will get a receipt and s/he has 48 hours to give that receipt to the prosecutor.5

1 NJ Stat. § 2C:25-29(b)
2 NJ Stat. § 2C:25-21(d)(1),(2)
3 NJ Stat. § 2C:25-21(d)(3)
4 NJ Stat. §§ 2C:25-21(d)(3); 2C:64-6
5 NJ Stat. §§ 2C:25-27(c); 2C:64-6

Who 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 Advocates and Shelters 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.1

1United States v. Lippman, 369 F. 3d 1039 (8th Cir. 2004); United States v. Henson, 55 F. Supp. 2d 528 (S.D. W.V. 1999)

What 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). The National Instant Criminal Background Check System is used by federal firearms licensees (FFLs), such as firearms dealers or pawnbrokers, to instantly determine whether someone is eligible to receive (own, possess, transport) firearms or explosives.1 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 legally 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 and so in those situations, the seller is not looking in the NICS.

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.

1National Criminal Justice Reference Service website

More Information and Where to Get Help

What is the penalty for violating state or federal firearm laws?

Under New Jersey state law, if you have a restraining order against the abuser, and s/he doesn’t surrender the firearms to law enforcement as instructed or if the abuser is illegally possessing a firearm under any other circumstance (such as possessing a firearm without a permit), s/he could be arrested for unlawful possession of weapons. If s/he is convicted of unlawful possession of weapons, it can be a crime in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th degree (depending on the circumstances) and s/he can be sentenced accordingly. In addition, if the abuser is in possession of a firearm in violation of a restraining order, s/he can be held in contempt. The crime of contempt can be either a disorderly persons offense or a crime in the 4th degree, depending on the circumstances1 – and therefore, the maximum punishment for contempt could be jail time of up to 18 months, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.2

In addition, under federal law, anyone who owns, has or buys a gun in violation of the federal firearm laws can be punished by a fine, jail time for up to 10 years, or both.3

1 NJ Statutes §§ 2C:29-9(b)(1),(2); 2C:39-5
2 NJ Statutes §§ 2C:43-6(a)(4); 2C:43-3(b)(2)
3 18 USC § 924(a)(2)

I do not have a restraining order against the abuser and s/he has not been convicted of a crime. Can s/he have a gun?

It depends. There are other reasons (aside from a conviction of a crime and aside from having a restraining order issued against someone) why it would be illegal for a person to have a gun in New Jersey.

New Jersey state law says that a person cannot get a “handgun purchase permit” or a “firearms purchaser identification card” 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.1

In addition, it is a crime of the 3rd degree under New Jersey state law for someone to possess a firearm or ammunition if:

  • s/he is subject to an extreme risk protection order; or
  • his/her firearm was seized (taken by police) pursuant to the “Prevention of Domestic Violence Act” and was not returned.2

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 Safety Tips 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 Advocates and Shelters page to find a local domestic violence organization near you.

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

1 NJ Stat. § 2C:58-3(c)
2 NJ Stat. § 2C:39-7(b)(3), (b)(4)

The abuser uses a gun for work. Does the law still apply?

According to New Jersey state law, if you have a restraining order against the abuser and s/he is a law enforcement officer, s/he can possess a firearm while on duty. If the abuser is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces or the National Guard, s/he can possess a firearm while on duty or while traveling to or from an authorized place of duty.1

Under federal law, however, if the abuser has been convicted of a felony or of a “domestic violence misdemeanor,” then s/he cannot buy or have a gun, even if s/he is a police officer or a military employee.2

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

I'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.  There are people who can help you better understand the law and your rights under the law. You can:

  • contact the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit to get more information about the federal firearm law and how it applies to you: 1-800-903-0111 x 2;
  • contact us by writing to our Email Hotline;
  • contact a local domestic violence organization in your area.