ASSEMBLY LAW AND PUBLIC SAFETY COMMITTEE

 

STATEMENT TO

 

ASSEMBLY, No. 4218

 

with committee amendments

 

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

 

DATED:  JUNE 1, 2015

 

      The Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee reports favorably and with committee amendments Assembly Bill No. 4218.

      As amended and reported by the committee, Assembly Bill No. 4218 enhances protections currently afforded victims of domestic violence by requiring attackers to surrender their firearms while  domestic violence restraining orders are in effect or when they are convicted of a domestic violence crime or offense. The bill also requires firearms purchaser identification cards and permits to purchase handguns to be revoked if the holder of the card or permit is convicted of a domestic violence crime or offense.  The bill further requires cross-referencing of records to assist in determining whether the alleged attacker owns a firearm and in removing those firearms. 

 

Seizure of Weapon at Scene of Domestic Violence

      The bill requires the prosecutor, prior to returning a firearm seized at the scene of a domestic violence incident, to inform the victim of the availability of restraining orders and the ability to seek revocation of the accused person’s card or permit.

 

Domestic Violence Offenders

      The bill revises the law regarding defendants convicted of domestic violence crimes and offenses by:

·    Requiring the sentencing court to inform defendants convicted of a domestic violence crime or offense that they are prohibited from possessing a firearm.

·    Requiring the court to order the defendant to arrange for the immediate surrender of firearms, firearms purchaser identification cards, and permits to purchase a handgun to a law enforcement officer.   The amended bill allows the defendant five days from when the order of conviction is entered to arrange to sell a surrendered firearm to a licensed firearms dealer; the dealer has 10 days from the date of the order to take possession of the firearm from the law enforcement agency to which it was surrendered. 

·    Deeming any identification card and permit that has been issued to the defendant to be immediately revoked and requiring the court to establish a process for notifying the appropriate authorities of the revocation. 

·    Requiring a law enforcement officer to whom weapons are surrendered to provide the defendant with a receipt naming the defendant, the surrender date, and description of a surrendered item; and requiring the defendant to provide a copy of the receipt to the prosecutor within 48 hours.

·    Requiring defendants to attest under penalty that they surrendered or do not possess a firearm. 

·    Permitting the court to order a search for and removal of firearms if there is probable cause that the defendant has failed to surrender firearms and requiring the court to state with specificity the reasons for and the scope of the search and seizure.

 

Domestic Violence Restraining Orders

      The bill revises the laws governing temporary and final restraining orders issued pursuant to the provisions of the “Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991” by:

·    Specifying that the plaintiff is to provide information concerning firearms to which the defendant has access, including the location of these firearms, if known, on a form to be prescribed by the Administrative Director of the Courts and clarifying the confidential nature of this information. 

·    Requiring the law enforcement officer to properly store surrendered or removed firearms and authorizing the officer to charge the defendant a fee for storage during a temporary restraining order.

·    Specifying that if an order is dismissed, any firearms, cards and permits are to be returned to defendants who are not otherwise disqualified in accordance with the provisions of the “Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991.”

·    Requiring the court issuing a final restraining order to order the defendant to arrange for the immediate surrender of firearms, cards, and permits to a law enforcement officer.   The amended bill allows the defendant five days from when the order is entered to arrange to sell a surrendered firearm to a licensed firearms dealer; the dealer has 10 days from the date of the order to take possession of the firearm from the law enforcement agency to which it was surrendered. 

·    Deeming the defendant’s cards and permits to be immediately suspended and requiring the court to establish a process for notifying the appropriate authorities of this suspension. 

·    Requiring a law enforcement officer to whom weapons are surrendered to provide the defendant with a receipt naming the defendant, the surrender date, and description of a surrendered item; and requiring the defendant to provide a copy of the receipt to the prosecutor within 48 hours.

·    Requiring the defendant to attest under penalty that he surrendered or does not possess a firearm.

·    Permitting the court to order a search for and removal of firearms if there is probable cause that the defendant has failed to surrender firearms and requiring the court to state with specificity the reasons for and the scope of the search and seizure. 

·    Requiring the appropriate law enforcement agency to make a reasonable search of records of firearm ownership before issuing a temporary or final restraining order. 

 

Firearms Licensing

      Current law governing firearms licensing requirements is revised by:

·      Requiring law enforcement to search the State’s central registry of domestic violence reports as part of the investigation of the applicant for a firearm card or permit.

·      Requiring records relating to issuance of firearms purchaser identification cards and permits to purchase a handgun, as well as firearms purchase records, to be made available to prosecutors and law enforcement agencies to enforce the State’s domestic violence laws. Current law requires these records to be sent to certain law enforcement agencies, but does not specify how these records may be used.

·    Requiring a law enforcement officer or prosecutor in possession of any firearms, cards, or permits surrendered or removed in whole or in part because of domestic violence to prepare an inventory of these items, cross-reference the inventory with records of firearm ownership, and if there are discrepancies, take appropriate action to ensure the defendant does not have access to a firearm. 

 

COMMITTEE AMENDMENTS:

      The committee amended the bill to:

      (1) provide that when a person is convicted of a domestic violence offense or a restraining order is filed against the person, the person is to arrange for the immediate surrender of any firearm that has not already been surrendered, but has five days to arrange the sale of the firearm to a retail firearms dealer and that the dealer has 10 days to take possession of the firearm from the law enforcement agency to which is had been surrendered; under the bill, the person had 24 hours to either surrender the firearm to law enforcement or sell it to a dealer;

      (2) specify that persons attesting they have surrendered or do not have firearms as required in the bill do so under penalty;

      (3) require the domestic violence offender to provide a copy of the receipt evidencing surrender of a firearm to the prosecutor, rather than the court;

      (4) clarify that the Administrative Office of the Courts is to supply a form for domestic violence plaintiffs to provide information concerning the accused person’s access to firearms and clarify the confidential nature of this information; the bill had required the summons or complaint form to designate space for this information;

      (5) clarify that the appropriate law enforcement agency, not the court, is required to conduct a reasonable search of records of firearm possession before a restraining order is issued;

      (6) if a prosecutor or law enforcement officer is required to ensure that a domestic violence offender does not have access to a firearm when there is a discrepancy between the inventory required by the bill of firearms surrendered and available records of firearms ownership, remove the requirement that the court be informed and provide that the prosecutor, not the court, ensure the inventory is properly prepared when a retail dealer takes possession of firearms and that the defendant does not have access to firearms;

      (7) remove the requirement that records of revoked firearms purchaser identification cards and handgun sales be made available to the court for purposes of enforcing domestic violence laws; and

      (8) make other technical and clarifying amendments.