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.
Also, federal laws, which apply to all states, restrict an abuser’s right to have a gun under other circumstances. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.
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: