Restrictions exist under both New Jersey law and federal law concerning who may legally possess firearms. Persons wishing to possess firearms must comply with both New Jersey law and federal law. Persons with certain mental health histories seeking to acquire firearms face legal challenges under each set of laws. This page discusses those challenges, and possible responses to each.
New Jersey Law
In order to legally purchase or possess a firearm in New Jersey, N.J.S. 2C:39-5c requires that the person have a firearms purchaser identification card (“FPID”). A different statute, N.J.S. 2C:58-3c provides a laundry list of persons who are barred from obtaining this firearms purchaser identification card. Included in this list at N.J.S. 2C:58-3c(3) are persons who have ever been confined for a mental disorder unless the person “...produces a certificate of a medical doctor or psychiatrist licensed in New Jersey, or other satisfactory proof, that he is no longer suffering from that particular disability in such a manner that would interfere with or handicap him in the handling of firearms[.]” This bar can also be removed by expunging the recond of confinement.
Neither producing the certificate referenced by N.J.S. 2C:58-3c, nor obtaining the expungement, automatically resolves the issue. The certificate does not cure the federal firearms NICS situation. (See discussion of NICS under the Federal Law heading, below.) And while the expungement does cure the federal NICS disqualification, a different New Jersey bar, this one specified in N.J.S. 2C:58-3c(5), is “To any person where issuance would not be in the interest of the public health, safety of welfare[.]” Thus a chief of police or New Jersey State Police can rely upon this extremely subjective catch-all to deny the firearms purchaser identification card (FPID) to a person on the basis of a previous commitment, even though fully compliant with N.J.S. 2C:58-3c(3). Even after expunged, “fingerprints” of the commitment will still cause difficulties. We discuss those difficulties elsewhere.
No magic formula exists by which former mental patients can overcome these hurdles. At the same time, much can be done to improve their chances. The key factor is preparation:
- If you elect to seek the N.J.S. 2C:58-3c(3) certificate mentioned above, obtain it from a skilled experienced forensic psychiatrist. (Side note: Since this certificate still leaves the NICS federal disqualification in place, Gun Lawyers in New Jersey™ recommend bypassing this avenue altogether, in favor of just seeking the expungement);
- Gather and organize other evidence of fitness to posses firearms;
- Work with a New Jersey lawyer knowledgeable in New Jersey firearms law, and its nuances.
18 U.S.C. 922(g)(4) prohibits possession of a firearm by any person who has been adjudicated as a mental defective, or who has been committed to a mental institution. This prohibition never expires automatically. However, the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007 requires participating States to adopt a program whereby these individuals can seek removal of that disability. The 2007 Act specifies that federal disabilities are removed when the person shows that his record and reputation are such that the person will not be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety, and that the granting of the relief would not be contrary to the public interest.
New Jersey is a participating State. And New Jersey has adopted a process that satisfies the requirements of the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007. That process is the expungement of mental health records. The specific New Jersey statute that provides for expungement of mental health records is N.J.S. 30:4-80.8. And N.J.S. 30:4-80.11 spells out the legal effect of expungement of mental health records:
Gun Lawyers in New Jersey™
Seemingly, N.J.S. 30:4-80.11 will require that satisfaction of N.J.S. 30:4-80.8 will remove mental history barriers to issuance of the firearms purchaser identification card. In reality, that is just wishful thinking. A substantial risk exists that New Jersey State Police or your local police chief will still contend that issuance would not be in the interest of the public health, safety of welfare. Persons finding themselves in this situation are encouraged to seek assistance from Gun Lawyers in New Jersey™. Ideally, they will seek this assistance before submitting the FPID application. Early guidance from Gun Lawyers in New Jersey™ can significantly increase the likelihood of presenting an FPID application that will be ultimately granted.
Allan Marain |
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