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What Disqualifies You from Gun Ownership?


The Second Amendment is an integral part of our constitutional rights in America. You have a right to protect yourself and your property. However, the right to bear arms is conditional and subject to reasonable limitations. Your right to bear arms can be affected —and essentially restricted —if you are convicted of certain federal or state crimes and felonies.

It is important to note that New Jersey does not classify crimes as felonies and misdemeanors. In New Jersey, criminal offenses are classified as indictable crimes and disorderly persons offenses rather than felonies and misdemeanors.

Federal Firearm Prohibitions

Federal law says that it is unlawful for specific individuals to possess firearms or ammunition (18 U.S.C. § 922(g)). These individuals include people who are:

  • Convicted felons
  • Fugitives from justice
  • Addicts or unlawful users of controlled substances
  • Noncitizens
  • Diagnosed with a mental illness
  • Dishonorably discharged from the Armed Forces
  • Renouncing their US citizenship
  • Subject to a court order that restrains the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child
  • Convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor

If you are charged with a felony that is punishable by over one year of imprisonment, federal law considers it unlawful for you to carry a gun as well.

Firearm Prohibitions in New Jersey

New Jersey law (N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:39-7) prohibits specific individuals from purchasing, carrying or, possessing firearms and ammunitions if they have been convicted of a crime or an attempt/conspiracy to commit a crime of:

  • Aggravated assault
  • Arson
  • Burglary
  • Escape
  • Extortion
  • Homicide
  • Kidnapping
  • Robbery (which does differ from burglary)
  • Aggravated sexual assault
  • Sexual assault
  • Bias intimidation
  • Carjacking
  • Racketeering
  • Gang criminality
  • Terroristic threats
  • Unlawful possession of a machine gun, handgun, or assault firearm

New Jersey law also prohibits the following persons from possessing a firearm:

  • Anyone who is bound by a domestic violence restraining order or an ex-parte order that prohibits the possession of firearms
  • Anyone who has been committed for a mental illness to any hospital, mental institution, or sanitorium, excluding those with proof that they are no longer suffering from a mental condition that may interfere with or handicap them in the handling of a firearm

When committed by an adult or emancipated minor against a person protected by domestic violence laws, a multitude of criminal offenses can be defined as domestic violence. In New Jersey, these criminal offenses include (N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C: 25-19):

  • Homicide
  • Assault
  • Terroristic threats
  • Kidnapping
  • Criminal restraint
  • False imprisonment
  • Sexual assault
  • Lewdness
  • Criminal mischief
  • Burglary
  • Criminal trespass
  • Harassment
  • Stalking

What is Legally Considered a Firearm?

According to N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:39-1, firearms are defined as:

  • Any handgun, rifle, shotgun, machine gun, automatic or semi-automatic rifle
  • Any gun, device, or type of weapon that fires or ejects any solid projectable ball, slug, pellet, missile, or bullet, or any gas, vapor, other noxious things from a cartridge, shell, explosion, or ignition of a flammable substance
  • Any firearm that is considered an air gun, spring gun, or any similar weapon that’s propelling force is a spring, elastic band, carbon dioxide, compressed or other gas or vapor, air or compressed air ejecting a bullet or missile smaller than three-eighths of an inch in diameter with enough force to harm someone

Can a Convicted Felon Go to a Gun Range?

As a convicted felon, you are also not allowed to possess or carry a firearm at any time. So, no, you should not go to a shooting range. At the range, it is not likely that you will be able to rent a gun. Even if they fail to run a background check, you will still be liable and penalized if you are caught handling any firearms.

When Can the Police Seize Guns?

Law enforcement officers can search for and seize weapons when they respond to domestic violence calls and have probable cause. They may take any weapon into custody that is contraband, evidence, or poses a risk to the victim; they may also seize the firearms purchaser identification cards (FPIC) or permits of the accused person (N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:25-21).

Additionally, if you receive a weapons charge (e.g. unlawful discharge of, illegal possession of, or unlawful sale of a firearm), action may be taken to remove all the weapons from your possession, regardless of whether or not the weapon was used to commit a crime.

Seizure of Weapons Following a Court Order

If you have been found guilty of crimes or offenses involving domestic violence, you will be ordered to arrange for the immediate surrender of any and all firearms that have not already been seized or surrendered as well as your FPIC or permits to purchase a handgun.

However, within five days of the court order being submitted, defendants can arrange to sell any surrendered firearm to a licensed retail dealer of firearms. The firearms retailer can take possession of the purchased firearm from the law enforcement agency to which the weapon was surrendered.

The law enforcement officer who accepts your surrendered weapons should provide you with a receipt listing the date of surrender, the name of the defendant, and any item surrendered, including the item’s serial number, manufacturer, and model (N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:25-27).

How to Restore Your Gun Rights after a Criminal Conviction

New Jersey permits individuals convicted of certain crimes to expunge their criminal record if they meet certain criteria. Expunging your record usually restores your right to bear arms. A pardon from the governor would also allow for your second amendment rights to be reinstated.

Keep in mind that expunged records, in some instances, can be unsealed. You will want to speak with an experienced attorney to ensure you meet the requirements for expungement and/or what the best course of action is for you specifically.

Talk with Experienced New Jersey Defense Attorney

Navigating the legalities of gun charges, the loss of firearm privileges and the search and seizure of your firearms can be complicated. If you are concerned about the impact of your arrest or conviction on your right to bear arms or want to learn more about how New Jersey firearm laws apply to you, you should contact an experienced lawyer for help.

The Law Offices of Joseph R. Donahue, LLC is prepared to defend you. Our client's best interest is always our top priority. If you are facing weapons violations and gun charges or your firearms have been seized, defend your rights, and contact our firm today. Give our office a call at (201) 574-7919 or fill out our online contact form.

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