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How to get your gun in New Jersey – a layman’s guide

New Jersey requires permits to purchase firearms – for longarms, it’s a Firearms Purchasers ID card, issued once and good for life (unless revoked, or you move; it has your street address on it). This card is de jure and practically de facto shall-issue, the only quirk being that, while the legislature wrote a “must issue within 30 days (45 for out-of-state applicants)” into the law, the NJ Judiciary interpreted this as “must issue after the background check is complete;” in effect neutralizing the time limit. Now, while the form to apply for a FPID and the process is uniform statewide, it is administered by the local Chief Law Enforcement officer or the New Jersey State Police for jurisdictions without their own police agency. Furthermore, some jurisdictions have had long-standing traditions and or municipal regulations of having additional requirements not specified in the law, such as additional forms beyond the application and mental health release (Available on the NJSP’s website as PDFs to save and print), interview requirements, and other impediments to the process to purchase a firearm. Of late there is an effort by the NJ Second Amenment Society to sue non-compliant governments to force them to comply with the law, this has been mostly successful with out of court settlements in most cases. Unfortunately, due to the caselaw, the 30-day time limit is not subject to being enforced by lawsuit, so the time it takes to actually receive the FPID is highly variable – my town is generally considred to be middle-of-the-road and I required 6+ weeks both times I applied. Applicants in other towns have had to threaten or actually sue as their wait time approached moths or even a year+. The card itself neither laminated nor standard credit-card size, nor a photo ID. It had your identifying info on one side, and your signature, the CLEO signature, and your fingerprint on the other. It allows you to purchase longarms, as long as you fill out a transfer form and if buying from an FFL, undergo a state-run background check (I understand the FFL calls the NJSP, who runs a quick file check and a NICS check). The last time I bought a longarm it took less time to process that check than it did for me to fill out the 4473 and NJ’s own transfer form.

For handguns, you instead use a Permit to Purchase a Handgun. The application process is exactly the same as the process for obtaining a Firearm Purchasers ID Card, down to using the exact same forms (only checking a different box) – because you need to show an FPID and have the transaction logged when purchasing ammunition from an FFL (ammo for rentals is generally exempt from this requirement), it’s generally considered wise to obtain an FPID at the same time you get your first pistol permit to both take advantage of being able to use the same forms and to be able to buy ammunition retail. Note than “handgun ammo” is considered to be “any ammo that can be used in a handgun,” and includes both “traditional” pistol calibers and .22lr at least. I believe most FFLs log all ammo purchases, but since my only firearms eat 9mm and .22lr, I don’t know for sure. Once complete, you receive a paper form good for 90 days, which can be extended for 90 more days (de jure non-discretionary, and usually de facto as well). This may be used to purchase 1 handgun either privately or through an FFL. If through an FFL, another background check at point of sale applies.

Now, the legislation setting up this scheme was passed in the late 1960s, and the fees were specified at that time and have not been adjusted since then. Consequently, they are relatively trivial; though there is an additional fee nowadays since the entire state now jobs out the fingerprinting to a private company who charges not quite $60 for the job. Fingerprinting is not necessarily required for subsequent paperwork obtained from the same issuing authority as before (at their discretion). Without fingerprinting, the cost is generally under $50 to get a set of permits, often much less. So what some enthusiasts will do is apply for mulitple permits (currently there’s no reason to have more than 3 live ones due to NJ’s one-handgun-a-month scheme), and refresh/replace as the come due, so that they always have the ability to buy a handgun without having to wait out the normal process. If your issuing authority is reasonable, this isn’t a terribly expensive way to go, other than being an unconstitutional tax on the right to obtain a firearm, of course :)

(Obligatory Disclaimer – I am not a lawyer, particularly not one who specializes in NJ firearms law. I’m just some guy on the internet who claims to have read the statutes once or twice).

For more resources see:

The NJSP Firearms FAQ

The NJSP links to NJ Firearms Laws and AG guidelines – that last includes the current “interpretation:” of the NJ AWB

The NJ2AS News and Resources page

The NJ2AS guide on purchasing a firearm in NJ – includes a link to their Operation Establish Compliance page

And, of course, the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, our NRA state org.

27 Responses to “How to get your gun in New Jersey – a layman’s guide”

  1. RetMSgt in Pa. says:

    Meanwhile, on the free side of the Delaware River, if you want to own a gun (revolver, pistol, rifle, shotgun) you go down to the local gun shop and buy one. Yeah, you fill out a 4473 or such at the gun shop, but that’s it. If you want to own ammo, with or without a gun, go for it. And if you want a license to carry firearms, it’s a one-page application, plus twenty dollars, no fingerprints or blood sample required.

    The 2013 numbers are in, and it appears a full 10.7% of all adult Pennsylvanians have such licenses, some 990,707 of them.

    Oh, to have Bloomberg’s billions – states such as New York and New Jersey would get the living daylights sued out of them.

    • RP says:

      I’ve been waiting for PSP’s 2013 report to come out, thanks for the heads up. I was hoping to break 1 million LCTFs issued in the last 5 years, but it looks like we came up just a hair short.

      • Joe_in_Pitt says:

        I’ve been a PA resident for a little over a year now (previously a VA resident with a CHP) and I’m still procrastinating about getting my LCTF. I’ll eventually help in getting us across that 1 million goal line.

        • Geodkyt says:

          I’m a VA resident who dropped my PA carry permit when PA went reciprocal with PA. Now, I suppose with the silly games being played with reciprocity, I ought to rethink that — at least half of my time spent in states other than VA is spent in PA. . .

  2. RP says:

    http://www.schs.state.nc.us/SCHS/brfss/2001/us/firearm3.html

    I don’t really feel like searching for more recent data, but everything I’ve ever seen shows that NJ’s rate of gun ownership is extremely low, even compared to other anti-gun states. 21% of Californians own firearms vs 12% of New Jersey residents. For comparison, the gun ownership rate is 35% in PA and around 50% in rural red states.

    I see it as a catch-22 situation in New Jersey. Gun owners are such a small portion of the electorate that they don’t have nearly enough influence to get these laws fixed. But becoming a significantly bigger chunk of the electorate will not happen with these ridiculous barriers to entry. And not only do you have those barriers, but you lack incentives to buy a first gun like EBRs and CCW. Those two things have created mountains of new gun owners in the 40+ states that allow them.

    To change NJ in a substantial way, I think it will take multiple generations with help from SCOTUS. In fact, I think it will take some luck and effort just to keep the gap between NJ and the free states from getting even wider.

    • Ian Argent says:

      NJ was the state that bucked the trend in the last decade by passing a One-handgun-per-month scheme a few years back, and only by gubernatorial veto did we avoid having the allowed magazine size reduced to 10 rounds fromt eh current 15 (with no grandfather clause). Since I believe SCOTUS finally passed on taking up the NJ carry case, the current round of federal lawsuits is dead in the water.

  3. Fiftycal says:

    And what is it exactly that keeps you in that slave state? Low taxes? Great weather? Close to the in-laws? Hope “they” don’t get around to requiring $1,000-10,000 license per gun. I’m sure the “conservative” Christi will keep any “bad” gun laws from being passed.

    • Ian Argent says:

      Lots of little things keep me here; I’m not a native – I’m well aware there are alternatives. But I’m not an active gun guy; the last time I turned brass and lead into smoke and fun was pushing 2 years ago, probably, and unless NJ is forced by external forces to go to a shall-issue concealed carry scheme, I don’t see myself buying another handgun in the next few years. I want another couple of longarms, and a .22 conversion kit for my Glock, but neither of those will require me to put out any particular effort that I wouldn’t have to do in, say, PA. I argue for gun rights because I think it’s a just cause, not because I’m in a hurry to get to the endgame (constitutional carry of firearms in public and cash and carry purchase, in case you care).

      As long as Chris Christie has presidential ambitions, he will continue to keep “bad” laws from getting passed – he’s vetoed a bunch in the past few years.

    • mike says:

      Please don’t encourage people living in commie states to move. That’s how red states turn blue. The best thing for Free America would be to build a 50-foot wall around commie states.

      • Ian Argent says:

        Dude, I’m a card-carrying republican who’se voted R since 2000 (except for our local mayor, and that was because the incumbent screwed several pooches, in series and parallel, during Sandy).At any rate, I’ve seen some interesting analysis that suggests that interstate migration from “Blue” to “Red” states is not as big an effect on politics as is conventionally thought; because a) interstate migration is down, and b) it appears that americans are more and more going to locations that they already agree with the politics of.

      • Joe_in_Pitt says:

        You’d be surprised how red South Jersey can be in spots. I remember growing up and spending my summers living with my grandparents at the Jersey Shore, and the natives (we called them Pineys, due to the Pine Barrens) were pretty salt-of-the-earth types. Of course they weren’t huge fans of us “Bennys”, a term they reserved for us New Yorkers.

        • Ian Argent says:

          Take out the newark and trenton conurbations, and the rest of NJ is basically a Red State. Same deal as NY and NYC, or IL and Chicago, really

          • Joe_in_Pitt says:

            Same thing in NY for sure. My home county hasn’t voted for a Democrat since LBJ. And what might surprise you is we are only 45min or so from midtown Manhattan.

        • Bram says:

          Northwest NJ is very very red. Democrats often don’t bother putting candidates on ballets for local elections.

          And there are quite a few target shooters and hunters around here.

  4. Pete says:

    I live in CA now. (from the fire into the frying pan) I did a change of address on my FID back when I lived in Marlton. It took 4 months. This would have been 1998. They held my old FID for about half of that until I got tired of transporting without and I went down got it back from the Po-Po.

    The gun laws in Jersey are clearly designed to discourage the first time gun owner.

    • Ian Argent says:

      Oh, absolutely. And in a lot of ways, I think NJ has the worst set of gun laws in the nation, despite each aspect of them having someone who is “worse.”

      • Joe_in_Pitt says:

        Doesn’t the Firearms Purchasers ID Card apply to pellet guns? That right there is taking it to a whole new level that even some of the very anti-gun states have yet to get to.

        I always found it ridiculous that in NY you need a handgun permit to even hold one in a store. So if you’re thinking about one day buying a handgun but aren’t quite sure yet, you still need to go through the process of getting your handgun permit before even finalizing your decision, because you’ll never be able to shop around without one. And based on the county you live in, the process can range from relatively straightforward to completely onerous.

        • Ian Argent says:

          Airguns capable of doing harm are considered firearms by the law. This is typically interpreted as covering BB guns but not airsoft. Curiously, airguns with a bore size over 3/8″ are also not firearms, so occasionally I consider getting a large-bore airgun for the amusement value.

  5. Bram says:

    My town does not have a local police force so our applications go through the State Police. Both times I went through the permit process, I had my permits in a little over a month.

    The worst part of NJ guns laws is not the permitting. It is the terrible confusing rules on storage and carrying.

    • Ian Argent says:

      From the NJSP FAQ

      Q6: How do you transport firearms?
      A6: Firearms shall be carried unloaded and contained in a closed and fastened case, gunbox, securely tied package, or locked in the trunk of the automobile in which it is being transported.

      Ammunition must be transported in a separate container and locked in the trunk of the automobile in which it is being transported.If the vehicle does not have a compartment separate from the passenger compartment, the firearm must be in a locked container other than the vehicle’s glove compartment or console.
      _____________________

      I was informed by the FFL that I bought it at that that a .22lr in a soft case, zippered closed, counted as “in a closed and fastened case.” Which actually didn’t matter, since I had my FPID on me and was not in possession of either a handgun or hollowpoint ammo at the time, and per the law, if you have an FPID, you can possess an unloaded longarm outside the restrictions (excepting on a school campus). I don’t know if that clause is modified by case law however. On the other hand, given the hostility of NJ prosecutors to firearms owners, I don’t want to be the test case…

  6. Brian says:

    Work part-time in a south Jersey gunstore/range, all background checks (NICS) are now done online on a NJSP firearms unit website. Typical approval in 5-10 minutes, however they are closed Sundays and 11 bank/federal holidays and anytime the weather is bad enough to close a school, they close. Last winter this was very often, five, maybe even seven times. On days they are open business hours are 10AM to 8PM, I tell people to try to be in the store by 7:30pm if they want to take the gun home today.

    Dick’s sporting goods (the only big box store that I know sells guns in NJ) does log all ammo purchases, however NJSP instructions are “all handgun ammo and all hollowpoints” and your more knowledgeable FFL’s only log those.

    The most annoying bit of NJ gun control scheme was about a decade ago a gun case reached the NJ state Supreme Court, in the majority opinion the Justice stated that “When it comes to guns the citizen acts at HIS PERIL.” (Emphasis mine) may not be exact quote, it’s been awhile.

  7. mayhew says:

    The current FPID/COE/P2P Scheme was passed in 1965, and went into effect in 1966, so nearly 50 years gone by. Note this predates GCA 1968. NJ urban areas have never ever had a pro gun culture, and at the time this stuff was passed, the urban population far exceeded the rural/suburban. It’s also worth noting in 1964 and 65 there were race riots in Jersey city and a couple other places, which the white Dem politicians in the urban areas used to scare white people that were left in Camden/Newark/JC/Paterson into supporting this. New Jersey city police depts and politicians were VERY racist into the 70s and even the 80s

    • Ian Argent says:

      New Jersey’s AWB also predates the federal one, and was very nearly ruled void for vagueness at some point from what I understand, which is why the AG’s “guidelines” are basically the federal AWB “feature ban” plus a named list, while the law says a named list and “substantially similar.” It’s also why NJ’s magazine limit is 15 instead of the federal/later states’ one of 10 (this is annoying, because almost everyone’s “compliant” mags are 10 rounders, which means a G17 has a smaller “legal” magazine capacity than a G19. I’ve wondered if a G19 magazine could have some kind of baseplate extension put on it to allow it to fit in a G17 magwell.)

  8. cbob says:

    Another “feature” of NJ’s laws, if you have the audacity to move & change the address on your driver’s license, your FID card is now invalid for purchases. The change of address process is almost the same as getting the card for the 1st time. The only difference is that you don’t need to be fingerprinted again. The mental health search forms and everything gets done again. Bonus points going to the part where you now have to go online and fill out some of the forms and pay the fee. Processing time for the NJSP run about 90 days for the 30 day check.

    • Pete says:

      You can never have a PO box as your address on your license either. Because they have to match and you can’t have a PO box on your FID card.

    • Ian Argent says:

      Technically, they can ask you to get fingerprinted again – it’s up to the issuing authority as to whether they will waive the requirement. It’s not almost exactly the same, it is the same, it’s jus tthat the issuing authority has the option to waive the fingerprinting for issuance of a second set of paperwork (just as they would with a new permit to purchase).

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