The criminal code controlling firearms and weapons appears in chapter 39 of Title 2C. It provides a long list of definitions used throughout the section to define the various terms. The code also contains certain presumptions such as any weapon found in a vehicle belongs to everyone in the vehicle and a person found to be possessing a weapon is assumed not to have a valid license or permit for the weapon until they prove otherwise. Sentencing for firearm related offenses falls under the Graves Act which requires mandatory periods of incarceration without the possibility of parole, with very few exceptions. Therefore, it cannot be stressed enough that if any person is charged with a firearm or weapon offense they immediately seek the assistance of counsel who specializes in criminal defense. With that in mind the commonly charged firearm and weapon statutes are described below.


2C:39-3. Prohibited Weapons and Devices. The following items are always illegal to possess no matter the circumstances:

a. Destructive devices meaning things that blow-up. 3rd degree.

b. Sawed-off shotguns. 3rd degree.

c. Silencer. 4th degree.

d. Defaced firearms meaning the name, model or serial number has been altered, hidden, or destroyed.

e. Certain (other) weapons including a gravity knife, switchblade, dagger, dirk, stiletto, billy, blackjack, metal knuckles, sandclub, slingshot, without any explainable lawful purpose. 4th degree.

f. Dum-dum (hollow-point) or body armor penetrating bullets. 4th degree.

g. Exceptions exist for certain law enforcement persons, those who guard nuclear facilities, and those who are licensed as wholesale firearm dealers.

h. Stun guns. 4th degree.

k. Handcuffs not manifestly appropriate for lawful use is a disorderly persons offense. Note that the criminal code does not attempt to define what kinds of lawful purposes consenting adults may have for handcuffs.


2C:39-4. Possession of Weapons for Unlawful Purposes. Under this statute there are five kinds of weapons which may be possessed for unlawful purposes. In order of the most serious they include:

a. Firearms. Any person who possesses a firearm with the intent to use it unlawfully against another person or property is guilty of a 2nd degree crime. Here, it is important to understand that the person does not have to fire the weapon to be considered using it.

b. Explosives. It is a 2nd degree crime to possess an explosive with the purpose to use it unlawfully against another person or property.

c. Destructive devices. 2nd degree.

d. Other weapons possessed with purpose to use them unlawfully against another person or property is a 3rd degree crime.

e. Imitation firearms. Possessing a fake firearm which would lead a reasonable person to think it was real, when possessed for an unlawful purpose, is a crime of the 4th degree.


2C:39-4.1. Weapons Possessed in Conjunction with Drugs. The legislature has created a separate statute with separate enhanced penalties for when drugs and guns are found together. Under 2C:39-4.1a, any person found to be in possession of a firearm while distributing or attempting to distribute drugs is guilty of a 2nd degree crime. The same is true if a person possesses a weapon other than a firearm, such as a knife, if the person intends to use the weapon unlawfully while distributing or attempting to distribute drugs. Importantly, a conviction under this statute does not merge with the drug conviction and the sentences will run consecutively.


2C:39-5. Unlawful Possession of Weapons.

a. Machine Guns. Unlawful possession of a machine gun, which the code defines as being capable of firing more than one shot per pull of the trigger, is a 3rd degree crime.

b. Handguns. Possession of a handgun without a valid permit is a 2nd degree crime. Possession of certain kinds of less deadly firearms like spring guns and those that operate by compressed air is a 3rd degree crime.

c. Rifles and shotguns. Possession of a rifle or shotgun without having first obtained a New Jersey Firearms Purchaser Identification Card is a 3rd degree crime.

d. Other weapons. Possession of any other weapon under circumstances not manifestly appropriate for such lawful use is guilty of a 4th degree crime.

e. Firearms or other weapons in educational institutions. 3rd degree crime even if you have a valid permit for the weapon.

f. Assault firearms. Possession for any purpose is a 3rd degree crime. A list of assault firearms are provided in the Code at 2C:39-1w.


2C:39-7b. Certain Persons Not to Have Weapons. Once a person has been convicted of certain specified prior crimes, they are forever prohibited from carrying any weapons, and if found to be in possession of a weapon a separate 2nd degree crime has occurred. The list of prior criminal convictions includes: aggravated assault, arson, burglary, escape, extortion, homicide, kidnapping, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, bias intimidation, endangering the welfare of a child, prior weapons convictions, or certain drug distribution crimes. Additionally, a five year period of parole ineligibility will be imposed.

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