On December 6, 2017, the House passed the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act in what is considered a major win for the National Rifle Association (NRA), the Republican Party, and President Donald Trump. While there was Democratic opposition to the bill, 6 Democrats voted with Republicans to approve the legislation, which now moves on to the Senate where it must also pass for the bill to go to Trump for his signature.
If the bill eventually becomes law it will mean major changes to gun control in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the two states which our criminal defense law firm represents individuals accused of illegal gun and firearm crimes. In Pennsylvania, the Uniform Firearms Act (VUFA) imposes a felony conviction for most offenses while New Jersey’s Graves Act imposes a mandatory minimum 3 ½ year state prison sentence (and a felony) for those found guilty of the illegal possession of a handgun or firearm. While New Jersey imposes mandatory minimum sentencing for virtually all illegal gun possession crimes, Pennsylvania subjects even first time offenders to a potential state prison sentence for many offenses under its Uniform Firearms Act.
Under current state laws, a person who is permitted to carry a concealed handgun could do so in another state which also allows concealed weapons, provided that there is a reciprocity agreement between the states. Right now, New Jersey and Pennsylvania allow concealed carry permits but New Jersey is much stricter in terms of who receives a permit. Pennsylvania, however, still requires an approval process but in most cases an individual will be issued a permit to conceal carry unless they fail to meet the necessary character and fitness requirements which include prior convictions and/or arrests.
As I’ve written in previous article, Pennsylvania is a “shall issue” state which New Jersey is a “may issue” state. This means that in a “shall issue” state, the granting authority (typically the Chief of Police or Sheriff) has no real discretion to deny an application provided that he/she meets the necessary character and fitness requirements. In a “may issue” state like New Jersey, the applicant must show a “justifiable need” to carry the handgun. In the Garden State, a person would need to show the following:
- An urgent necessity for self-protection
- Specific threats or previous attacks which demonstrate a specific danger to the applicant’s life that can’t be avoided by any other issuance of a permit to carry
- Possible corroboration of threats/violence
Keep in mind that even if an applicant satisfies all of these requirements a Superior Court Judge in New Jersey must approve the permit and it’s only good for 2 years when the applicant must go through the entire process again. The new Universal Conceal Carry legislation will dramatically change gun control in New Jersey!
While Pennsylvania does honor permits with other “shall issue” states like Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma, and Ohio, states like New Jersey, New York, and Maryland are “may issue” jurisdictions, which have no reciprocity with any jurisdiction. As the law stands right now, if you carry an out of state gun in New Jersey, you’re subject to the same mandatory minimum punishment as a person who carried without any permit whatsoever. Under this proposed federal law however, New Jersey will be forced to accept the permit of any state which lawfully issued a concealed carry permit because technically New Jersey issues permits as well. While New Jersey has taken steps in recent years to relax the mandatory minimum sentencing with the Graves Act “safety valve provision”, this provision is at the discretion of the prosecutor.
If Universal Concealed Carry becomes federal law, New Jersey could move to become a “no issue” state like Illinois, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia (not a state). While the new law would force states to accept concealed carry permits from other jurisdictions these states would more than likely not be affected because they don’t issue any permits. Outside of these “no issue” jurisdictions the remaining states do issue some kind of permit and so Universal Concealed Carry would alter gun control across the country.
Violations that we see in our Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act Section VUFA 6105 (Persons Not Permitted to Possess a Firearm, 6106 (Unlicensed Carry), and 6110 (Possession of Firearm With Altered Serial Number). With regards to our New Jersey practice, the typical violations involve violations of its Graves Act for unlawful possession of firearm (2C:39-5) and 2C:39-4.1 (Possession of weapon during the commission of certain crimes)
For more information on gun crimes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, I encourage you to keep reading my blog and visit my free download section