New Jersey Strengthens Already Tough Gun Laws

New Jersey has some of the toughest gun laws in the country, which have undergone a number of overhauls since Gov. Phil Murphy took the helm. The most recent one to go into effect, on December 1, 2020, is aimed at protecting family members who are at risk from an individual suffering from mental health issues.

Under the new law, the “Extreme Risk Protective Order Act of 2018,” a family member or an individual who shares a person’s home can file a petition with the Superior Court if they think an individual is a danger to themselves or others. This law also allows law enforcement agencies to file petitions at the request of a law enforcement officer or other concerned individual. If you do not live with the individual and are not a family member your request for a petition must go through a law enforcement agency.

This law, according to its sponsors, focus is on mental health concerns. It provides a mechanism to permit family members and others who are concerned about a gun owner’s mental health to have a court determine their capability to safely own a weapon.

Once a judge enters an Order pursuant to this law, a warrant can then be issued to seize the firearms if the individual fails to surrender the firearms in the appropriate time as ordered. The individual also has the ability to transfer the ownership of any weapons or ammunition that are in the custody of law enforcement to a federally licensed firearms dealer.

The Order is good for up to one year, however the Judge may issue another order extending the firearm seizure. An individual has 45 days from the date the Order goes into effect to file an appeal. If an appeal is not filed within the appropriate time, the individual can file with the Court at any time to terminate the Order.

A companion law was passed at the same time as this one, which mandates licensed practitioners such as nurses, therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, or doctor, the duty to warn about individuals who are a threat to themselves or others. It sets forth a requirement that the threat be reported to the Chief Law Enforcement Officer in the town that the individual resides in. If that individual has any kind of license to own or carry a firearm, the appropriate action may be taken in the Superior Court to vacate the permit and order the surrender of any firearms. This law takes effect immediately.

This law was one of six that Governor Murphy signed on September 1, 2019, to strengthen gun laws in New Jersey. The other laws include restrictions on permits to carry handguns, strengthening background check requirements, a ban on armor piercing bullets, and a ban on magazines that hold over ten rounds.