An FID Card Is Generally Needed
With certain exceptions, N.J.S. 2C:39-5c makes possession of any rifle or shotgun a third degree crime unless the possessor has a firearms identification card (“FID”). And N.J.S. 2C:39-5b makes possession of a handgun without the firearms purchaser identification card a second degree crime. A different New Jersey statute specifies who may obtain this firearms purchaser identification card. That statute is N.J.S. 2C:58-3c.
Preliminary Warning before Applying
Before looking at what N.J.S. 2C:58-3c says, some strong words of caution are in order: The application form for an FID is at http://www.njsp.org/info/pdf/firearms/sts-033.pdf. The form requires that you provide the names and addresses of character references. The reviewing agency will send to the persons that you list a form that those persons will be required to complete and return. Talk to your character references before naming them on the form. Do not just assume they are on board. Make sure they are comfortable with your using them as references!
If you are aware of any conceivable reason your application for your firearms purchaser identification card may be questioned or denied, review that application with a New Jersey gun lawyer. Do this before submitting your application. It is always easier (and less costly) to prevent a denial in the first place than it is to appeal the denial afterwards.
Provisions of Statute Governing the FID
|N.J.S. 2C:58-3c begins by saying that all applicants of good character and good repute in the community where they live, unless disqualified under other provisions of the statute, or other statutes, shall be granted a permit to purchase a handgun or a firearms purchaser identification card upon proper application. N.J.S. 2C:58-3c then goes on to provide a laundry list of what constitutes a disqualification. The list is divided into eleven numbered parts. Since many of those parts contain multiple items, the number of disqualfying conditions is much greater. Here is who is disqualified:
The FID Application Process
N.J.S. 2C:39-5d specifies that applications for a handgun or firearms purchaser identification card are made to the chief of police where the applicant lives, or the Superintendent of State Police. The chief, or the Superintendent, is required to issue the card to any person qualified under subsection c. In determining whether the applicant is qualified, the chief (or Superintendent) follows procedures issued by New Jersey State Police.
N.J.S. 2C:39-5d then goes on to state:
So how does all this work in the real world? The answer is, “It works poorly. Very poorly.” Understand that New Jersey has a very anti-firearms Legislature, and a very anti-firearms judiciary. One early clue to what applicants must deal with comes from the very top of New Jersey State Police web page that discusses FID applications as viewed on June 25, 2020. That page announced at its very top, “Due to the large volume of submitted firearms applications, delays will be experienced. Please contact your local police department with any questions.” New Jersey State Police has, since then, removed that announcement. Its philosophy, however, remains unchanged.
The rights that New Jersey gun owners have flow from federal law. New Jersey does everything it can to interpret that federal law in the most restrictive manner possible. And on top of this oppressive interpretation of federal law, New Jersey resists adherence to even its own laws. For example, N.J.S. 2C:58-3f requires the chief of police to act on the FID application for New Jersey residents within thirty days. (For non-New Jersey residents, the processing time is extended to forty-five days.) The thirty (or forty-five) days often pass with the application being neither granted nor denied. When an applicant is sufficiently frustrated by the delay, he or she can ask the court to enforce the statute. The courts are little or no help. Adler v. Livak holds that if a required background check is not completed within the thirty (or forty-five) day period specified under N.J.S. 2C:58-3f, more time must be allowed. Never mind that background checks from the FBI are routinely completed within minutes.
When a denial does occur, N.J.S. 2C:58-3d specifies that the applicant can request a hearing in Superior Court. And the statute specifies that no filing fee or formal pleading is needed. Regardless, many counties require a fifty dollar fee to file the appeal. As indicated above, the hearing is to be held within thirty days. Again, the thirty days typically comes and goes with no hearing being held. In re Dubov stands for the proposition that the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, will do nothing to enforce the N.J.S. 2C:58-3d time requirement. Unless disappointed applicants have much discretionary funds at their disposal for two and possibly three levels of appeal, their only recourse (such as it is) is to cool their heels and wait.
New Jersey State Police Spit upon the Second Amendment
There's more. N.J.S. 2C:58-3f specifies that firearms identification cards issued before July 5, 2022, remain valid “until such time as the holder becomes subject to any of the disabilities set forth in subsection c of this section.” FID cards issued after July 4, 2022, remain valid for ten years, again, unless the holder becomes subject to one or more disabilities. Yet, by regulations adopted by an agency run wild, and in total disregard of statute, New Jersey State Police adds its own circumstances in which it declares the FID card void. N.J.A.C. 13:54-1.7(a) specifies in part: “A State of New Jersey firearms purchaser identification card shall not be valid for more than 30 days after the information contained therein is no longer reflective of the issued person, that is, current address, name change, and/or sex change.” Section 13:54-1.11 of the New Jersey Administrative Code lists additional circumstances:
- The firearms identification card has been lost;
- The firearms identification card has been stolen;
- The firearms identification card has become mutilated;
- The holder of a firearms identification card has changed his/her address.
Gun Lawyers in New Jersey™ believe that N.J.S. 2C:58-3f precluded New Jersey State Police from adopting Section 13:54-1.11 of the New Jersey Administrative Code. This belief is reinforced by yet another provision in that same N.J.S. 2C:58-3f:
But then a court case called IMO Boyadjian, 362 N.J. Super. 463 (App. Div., 2003), certif. den. 178 N.J. 250 (2003) held that the local police department could deny the new application even if no disqualifying events have happened since the initial approval. Another regulation, N.J.A.C. 13:54-1.15k, says that if for any reason, the ensuing investigation causes the application to be denied, the investigating agency is not allowed to disclose to the applicant the results of the investigation that caused the denial! (Can you spell “Kafka”, boys and girls?)
As just indicated, Boyadjian upheld denial of an application for a new FID card following an applicant's change of address. That decision cited N.J.A.C. 13:54-1.11. A close reading of the Boyadjian decision, however, suggests that the applicant never challenged the validity of the regulation. Rather, the applicant challenged only the authority of the police chief in his new town to reach a decision different from that of the chief in the original town. Also of note is that that decision was rendered by an intermediate appellate court. The Supreme Court of New Jersey denied discretionary review. Were this issue to ever reach the Supreme Court, the outcome might well be different.
A Call to Arms
Strong believers in the rule of law, especially as it relates to the Second Amendment, can fight abuses such as these. Fights of that nature are exciting. Unfortunately, they are also expensive. Nonetheless, Gun Lawyers in New Jersey™ stand ready to help preserve your Second Amendment rights.
Allan Marain |
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