Gun control remains a hotly debated topic throughout the country. While the federal government has limited control over the ownership and use of firearms, state gun control laws vary between the individual states. New Jersey gun control laws are some of the strictest in the U.S., a reflection of substantial consensus between members of the state legislature and the governor's office in recent years.
Discussion of gun control often centers on the prevalence of gun violence. Mass shootings devastate communities, but public safety concerns about gun deaths go beyond the headlines. Recent gun death statistics demonstrate that 54% of gun deaths result from suicide and 43% result from murder. Gun deaths involving children and teenagers saw a 50% increase between 2019 and 2021.
Lawmakers seeking to reduce access to firearms must balance their interest to protect the public with the rights of gun owners to own firearms for self-defense and other lawful purposes. The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution acknowledges a right for citizens to bear arms.
In 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a New York state licensing system that made it difficult to get concealed carry permits. In New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, the Court set forth a new historical test for determining if state regulations placed an undue burden on the constitutional right to own guns. As a result, challenges to gun regulations have increased in courts nationwide.
Most federal laws regulating firearms were enacted in the last century. They include laws addressing the legal manufacture, sale, ownership, and possession of firearms. Certain dangerous weapons, such as machine guns, must be registered and are strictly controlled.
Federal law also bans certain persons from possessing firearms, including felons and those who abuse illegal drugs. Firearms dealers who have a federal license must run a criminal background check on purchasers prior to delivery of a firearm. This helps keep guns from those Congress has determined are dangerous.
State regulations can go further. They can set other restrictions on purchase, use, and possession. States vary in their response.
New Jersey Gun Control Laws
New Jersey has some of the toughest gun laws in the United States. In 2021, it had the third-lowest gun death rate in the nation. Since his election in 2017, Governor Phil Murphy has made gun violence prevention a hallmark of his tenure in office, signing several new firearms regulations into law including a red flag law and a law requiring private firearms transactions to go through a licensed gun dealer for a background check.
In recent years, the state has also banned assault weapons (called assault firearms in New Jersey) and ghost guns, firearms that are often untraceable. The state's assault firearms law prohibits possession of the following unless licensed by the state:
- Certain specific firearms (see list at NJSA Section 2C:39-1w)
- Any firearms substantially identical to those in the list
- A semi-automatic shotgun with either a magazine capacity exceeding six rounds of ammunition, a pistol grip, or a folding stock
- A semi-automatic rifle with a fixed magazine capacity exceeding 10 rounds of ammunition
- A part or combination of parts designed to convert a firearm into an assault firearm
- A firearm with a bump stock attached
The Garden State requires anyone who seeks to purchase a handgun in the state to obtain a handgun purchase permit. Buyers must also register handguns. You may only buy one handgun in a 30-day period in New Jersey. To purchase a rifle, shotgun, or handgun ammunition, you must have a firearm purchase identification card (FPIC).
In 2020, New Jersey enacted a law that required the state attorney general to design a suicide prevention course and suicide prevention informational materials. Retail firearms dealers are encouraged to take the course. Dealers must also make the suicide prevention materials available on each retail counter at their gun stores.
In 2022, the state of New Jersey conducted an overhaul of its concealed handgun permit law. Prior versions of the law had required an applicant to show a justifiable need for a permit. This type of discretionary standard was found to be unconstitutional in the Bruen case.
Under the revised law, applicants for a handgun permit apply to the chief of police in their municipality or to the Superintendent of State Police. Applicants must also have the endorsement of four reputable persons who can vouch that they are not likely to engage in acts, outside of self-defense, that would cause harm to self or others. They submit their fingerprints and will be subject to a criminal background check.
The police will interview applicants and those who provide endorsements. Applicants must complete approved firearms training and show proof of liability insurance. Their application must also gain the approval of the superior court before the issuance of a permit.
New Jersey also expanded its law that prohibits the possession of firearms in certain locations. Prohibited places include:
- Government buildings and offices
- Police stations
- Schools and universities
- Correctional facilities
- Health care facilities
- Entertainment centers, including casinos
The law defaults to a firearms ban on private property unless the property owner or place of business has expressly provided consent or posted signage to that effect. A legal challenge to New Jersey's handgun permitting process and its location prohibitions has temporarily blocked some parts of these laws from taking effect.
New Jersey firearms law provides for safe storage of any gun while in a motor vehicle. During transport a handgun must be unloaded and in a locked container or gunbox, or locked and unloaded in the vehicle's trunk. Hunters must likewise keep any rifle or shotgun unloaded during transport in a motor vehicle.
Overview of New Jersey Gun Control Laws
The main provisions of New Jersey gun control laws are listed in the table below.
Relevant Statutes (Laws)
New Jersey Statutes Annotated (N.J.S.A.)
Title 2C - The New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice
Chapter 39, Firearms, Other Dangerous Weapons and Instruments
Chapter 58, Licensing and Other Provisions Related to Firearms
In general, the following firearms and accessories are prohibited in New Jersey unless registered and licensed through the state or under federal law or otherwise excepted, such as for law enforcement or members of the military:
- Sawed-off shotguns
- Defaced firearms
- Hollow nose or dum-dum bullets
- Armor-piercing bullets
- Large-capacity ammunition magazines
- Machine guns or assault firearms
- Bump stock or trigger cranks
- Undetectable or ghost guns
- Firearms without a serial number
- Stun guns
New Jersey law imposes a 7-day waiting period from purchase to delivery of a handgun. There is no such waiting period for a long gun (shotgun or rifle). However, state law requires a prospective buyer to get a permit prior to purchasing any firearm. A buyer needs a permit to purchase a handgun to buy a handgun. A buyer needs a firearms purchaser identification card (FPIC) to buy a rifle or shotgun. The application process for either permit can take 30 days (45 days for non-residents).
Who May Not Own a Firearm in New Jersey?
A person cannot own a firearm if they:
- Have been convicted of the crime, or an attempt or conspiracy to commit the crime, of aggravated assault, arson, burglary, escape, extortion, homicide, kidnapping, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, bias intimidation, carjacking, gang criminality, racketeering, terroristic threats, unlawful possession of a machine gun, unlawful possession of a handgun, unlawful possession of an assault firearm, leader of firearms trafficking network, endangering the welfare of a child, stalking, domestic violence offenses, specified weapons offenses, or the unlawful use, possession, or sale of a controlled dangerous substance
- Have been committed for a mental disorder to any hospital, mental institution, or sanitarium unless they possess a certificate of a medical doctor or psychiatrist licensed to practice in New Jersey or other satisfactory proof that the person is no longer suffering from a mental disorder that interferes with or handicaps the person in the handling of a firearm
- Have been convicted of a disorderly persons offense involving domestic violence
- Have had a firearm seized or are subject to a court restraining order or order prohibiting the possession of firearms
- Fall under a federal law prohibition
Yes. You need a valid permit to purchase a handgun or a valid firearms purchaser identification card (FPIC) to buy a shotgun or rifle in New Jersey.
Concealed Carry License Required?
Yes. New Jersey prohibits possessing a handgun in public without a permit to carry a handgun.
Open Carried Allowed?
It depends. New Jersey prohibits open carry of handguns. It allows open carry of unloaded rifles and shotguns with a valid FPIC.
Eligibility for a Concealed Carry License
To be eligible for a permit to carry a handgun, you must:
- Be familiar with the safe handling and use of handguns and have completed any state-required firearms training
- Agree to be fingerprinted by law enforcement
- Not be subject to any of the prohibitions set out in state or federal law
- Pass a criminal background check
- Have four reputable persons who have known you for at least three years certify that you are not likely to engage in conduct (apart from self-defense) that would cause danger to self or others
- Subject yourself and your endorsers to a police interview which may look at any recent arrests or other disqualifying factors such as mental health needs and/or alcohol or drug abuse
- Show proof of liability insurance coverage of $300,000 for any harm that may result from carrying a gun
Machine Gun Laws
In New Jersey, it is illegal to possess a machine gun without a state license.
Penalties for Illegal Firearm Possession
The penalties for violating New Jersey's gun possession laws depend on the offense. Illegal gun possession penalties range from a crime of the fourth degree to a crime of the second degree. The potential sentences for these degrees of crime are:
- Fourth degree: up to 18 months in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both
- Third degree: Three to five years in prison, a fine of up to $15,000, or both
- Second degree: Five to ten years in prison, a fine of up to $150,000, or both
Penalties for Illegal Possession on or Near School Grounds
Illegal possession of a firearm on school property is a crime of the third degree punishable by three to five years in prison, a fine of up to $15,000, or both.
Red Flag Law?
|Yes. New Jersey has a red flag law that allows a court to issue an extreme risk protection order when it finds a person presents an immediate and present danger of causing bodily injury to self or others by having custody, control, or possession of a firearm.
Universal Background Checks?
|Yes. New Jersey requires that private firearms transactions go through a licensed dealer with few exceptions. This means that a criminal background check will occur on nearly every gun sale or transfer in the state.
Stand Your Ground Law?
|No. New Jersey law provides that the use of deadly force in self-defense is not justifiable if the actor knows they can avoid such use of force with complete safety by retreat. However, an actor need not retreat from his own dwelling unless they were the initial aggressor.
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts that include federal decisions, ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the status of any state law(s) you are reviewing.
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Charged With a Gun Crime in New Jersey? Speak With an Attorney
Do you have more questions about New Jersey's gun laws? Perhaps you want to know how New Jersey laws differ from gun laws in a neighboring state like New York. Seeking legal advice may give you peace of mind. If you face state or federal gun charges, find a qualified attorney through our directory who can help you.