The Citizen In Peril

I once lent my car to a friend for a week and it wound up getting towed.  He parked it in a legal spot and several days later, they changed the sign over the car.  My friend never got a notice that they were changing the sign, but off the car went to the impound lot.

There’s no shortage of public opinion on what should be done when it comes to the issue of gun control.  Yesterday, a set of bills were signed into law by the governor (with a lawsuit promptly filed).

But one of them, the 10 round magazine limit, will have unintended consequences due to the lack of notification to citizens and possibly the Graves Act.  The public should be aware of this before it becomes effective and the law should be updated.

It’s one thing to be in open violation of criminal laws, you can and should be prosecuted.  But do we, as a State, really want to incarcerate cage people for “crime” of not knowing the law changed?  Or worse, for not understanding what is a very complicated situation?  This is going to happen and we don’t have much time to stop it.

We should fix this.  At the very least, we should grandfather previously owned merchandise from law abiding citizens and clarify the rules as to what citizens may do with old magazines1.

As if NJ gun laws weren’t complicated enough, the proponent of the law, State Senator Loretta Weinberg (the drafter of this legislation) has advised constituents affected through her social media account that during the pendency of the new law’s 180 grace period, magazines may “be sold to anyone in a state where they r legal”.

Is this correct?  Leading attorneys say no.

Under S. 102 which was signed yesterday by Gov. Murphy, there is indeed a 180 grace period.  Here’s what it says:

  1. (New section)  Any person who legally owns a semi-automatic rifle with a fixed magazine capacity exceeding 10 rounds or a large capacity ammunition magazine as defined under subsection y. of N.J.S.2C:39-1 which is capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition on the effective date of P.L.     , c.     (C.       ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill) may retain possession of that rifle or magazine for a period not to exceed 180 days from the effective date of this act.  During this time period, the owner of the semi-automatic rifle or magazine shall: 
  1. Transfer the semi-automatic rifle or magazine to any person or firm lawfully entitled to own or possess that firearm or magazine;
  2. Render the semi-automatic rifle or magazine inoperable; or
  3. Voluntarily surrender the semi-automatic rifle or magazine pursuant to the provisions of N.J.S.2C:39-12.

But here’s the thing — there’s ANOTHER State Statute, 2C:39-9h (which was not amended by this legislation):

h.Large capacity ammunition magazines. Any person who manufactures, causes to be manufactured, transports, ships, sells or disposes of a large capacity ammunition magazine which is intended to be used for any purpose other than for authorized military or law enforcement purposes by duly authorized military or law enforcement personnel is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree.

So while Senator Weinberg may think that the legislation allows you to sell your now illegal magazine to another owner in another State, who is lawfully permitted to accept it — the very act of doing so will be a crim under section h of 2C:39-9.

Laws are complicated.  DO NOT LISTEN TO SENATOR WEINBERG if you do not want to spend up to 18 months in a cage.

For those interested, Evan Nappen (author of the New Jersey Gun Law book) has put together some information and advice on how to navigate the new laws.  Please share this so no one you know will face the same fate as Joseph Pelleteri.

Here’s what his court opinion said:

“When dealing with guns, the citizen acts at his peril. In short, we view the statute as a regulatory measure in the interests of the public safety, premised on the thesis that one would hardly be surprised to learn that possession of such a highly dangerous offensive weapon is proscribed absent the requisite license.”  You can read the decision of the New Jersey Appellate Division in the Pelleteri case here.

Peril indeed.


  1. As an aside, we should also change the way prosecutors get discretion for those that violate a law without any evil intent, whatsoever.  As  recounts in Reason, “New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram issued a directive (PDF) [in 2008] urging the state’s prosecutors to apply the new law “vigorously,” “strictly,” and “uniformly.””As per this directive, if an individual is in technical violation of NJ gun laws because they simply didn’t know that the law had changed since they purchased them, the prosecutor is not permitted to be lenient.In fact, pursuant to the memo, there’s a presumption of ineligibility for pre-trial intervention in Graves Act cases.  So the option available to first time offenders who had no intent to commit a crime and simply made the mistake of not knowing the law changed without notice to them — can’t even get a break from the prosecutor, who must seek mandatory jail time.
  2. Under Section 6(c)(3): Strict Presumption Against Probationary Term:
  3. “A prosecuting agency shall not move for or approve a sentence of probation except for extraordinary and compelling reasons that take the case outside the heartland of the legislative policy top deter unauthorized gun possession (e.g., the defendant has no prior involvement with the criminal justice system, the firearm was unloaded, and the circumstances make clear that the firearm posed no risk to officer or public safety), so that imposition of a state prison term would constitute a serious injustice that overrides the need to deter others from unlawfully possessing a firearm.”

  4. While this addressed for “non-residents” in an update to the Graves Act memo dated September 24, 2014, actual residents are still out of luck.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *