Surprise! Guns Taken? Now Go to Prison.
By Evan F. Nappen, Attorney at Law
On January 14, 2004, New Jersey’s gun laws changed and a brand new category of persons was banned from purchasing and possessing guns. Anyone who has had firearms seized and not returned because of a domestic violence allegation, lost their gun rights.
Although this law has been in effect for over seventeen years, the NJ State Police has failed to ask about it on New Jersey’s gun permit application forms and Certificates of Eligibility. Is the NJ State Police incompetent or is this a conspiracy to criminally entrap unsuspecting gun owners? Once the question is on all the forms it will educate the public about this law. The NJ State Police need to do their job and fix the forms now!
The law was changed in two places:
NJS 2C: 58-3. c. (8) “No handgun purchase permit or firearms purchaser identification card shall be issued: … To any person whose firearm is seized pursuant to the "Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991," P.L.1991, c.261 (C.2C:25-17 et seq.) and whose firearm has not been returned.”
NJS 2C:39-7. b. (3) “A person whose firearm is seized pursuant to the "Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991," P.L.1991,c.261 (C.2C:25-17 et seq.) and whose firearm has not been returned… pursuant to the "Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991," P.L.1991,c.261 (C.2C:25-17 et seq.)who purchases, owns, possesses or controls a firearm is guilty of a crime of the third degree
In other words, if the State is holding your guns, or your guns were not returned to you (e.g. sold to a dealer, transferred to a third party, destroyed by the State, etc.) you lose your gun rights in NJ. Anyone with guns “seized and not returned” who purchases or possesses a firearm faces five years in the NJ State Prison.
Have the NJ State Police failed to fix the forms to keep folks in the dark so that they don’t fight to get their guns returned? If people knew about this law many would NOT simply agree to have their seized guns sold to a dealer, transferred to a third party, or forfeited to the State. The prosecutors and the courts would have to do lot more hearings for gun returns. (Note: prosecutors and the judges are under no legal obligation tell the unsuspecting former gun owners that their gun rights will be lost by making such a deal with the State.)
No other state has such a law. However, it is the law in NJ. I do not support this law and I believe it should be repealed. Until it is repealed, many gun owners are failing to insist upon the return of their seized guns and prohibited persons are unknowingly acquiring guns. Maybe that is the plan all along.