In New Jersey it’s a crime for a person to knowingly possesses a handgun outside of his home or place of business without first obtaining a permit to carry it (2C:39-5). A person who violates this section of New Jersey’s Criminal Justice Code commits a crime of the second degree for unlawful possession of a weapon. There are, however, exceptions for a person who carries a gun, rifle, or shotgun outside of their home or place of business. Before explaining the law, keep in mind that unlike a hand gun, carrying a rifle or a shot gun doesn’t require a permit to carry but rather a firearms purchaser identification card.
The most common situations where a person could be arrested for unlawful possession of a weapon but fall under an exception is traveling to and from a firing range or a place where he/she was hunting or fishing in a case of a rifle or shotgun. If you are transporting a handgun, shotgun, or rifle through New Jersey, it needs to be carried unloaded and contained in a closed and fastened case, gun box, securely tight package, or locked in the trunk of an automobile in which it is being transported. This matter of transporting the weapon also applies to situations where a person is traveling through the Garden State with a weapon from a different state where that person maintains or has the proper authority to carry the weapon.
If you’re traveling through the Garden State, the firearm and the ammunition must be locked in a container other than the vehicle’s glove compartment or console. The firearm must be unloaded and neither it, nor the ammunition, that is being transported can be readily or directly accessible from the passenger compartment of the transporting car or vehicle. Federal law (18 US Code§ 926(a)) is what New Jersey uses as a guide to determine if a person is lawfully transporting a firearm or gun through the state.
If you’re driving through New Jersey, you don’t need to give the state notice that you are doing so with a firearm provided you’re in compliance with those federal laws. The federal law however will only protect you if meet all of the following requirements:
- The possession of the firearm was lawful in the state where the journey began;
- The possession of the firearm will be lawful in the state where the journey will end;
- The person transporting the firearm is doing so with a lawful purpose;
- The firearm is unloaded;
- The gun or firearm isn’t directly accessible from the passenger compartment of the vehicle;
- The ammunition isn’t directly accessible from the passenger compartment of the vehicle;
- If the vehicle doesn’t have a passenger compartment that is separate (most cars and trucks/ SUVs) the firearm and ammunition must be in a locked container other than the vehicles glove box or console;
- The person is not any of the following: a convicted felon, a fugitive from justice, or an illegal alien.
- The person isn’t any of the following:
- The person has been adjudicated to be mentally defective
- The person has been committed to a mental institution
- The person has been dishonorably discharged from the armed services
- Or renounced his United States citizenship.
It’s very important that you’re aware of the weapons laws in New Jersey as the Graves Act subjects even a first time offender to a mandatory minimum state prison sentence. While there are waivers under the Graves act and other alternatives to it, the prosecution isn’t obligated to agree to them. The Act specifically requires that a person convicted of the unlawful possession of a firearm must serve 42 months in prison before becoming eligible for parole.
Prosecutors, however, aren’t permitted to categorically deny the defendant who applies for pre-trial intervention (PTI). There is, however, a rebuttable presumption that a person charged with a Graves Act crime isn’t eligible for PTI. PTI is only available for second degree offenses if there are “compelling and extraordinary reasons to justify diverting the case from ordinary prosecution”. If a person isn’t eligible for PTI the prosecutor may file a motion pursuant to NJSA2C:43-6.2 to reduce the stipulated 42 month prison sentence to one (1) year or in some cases a non-custodial probation.