ASSEMBLY, No. 5647

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

219th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED MAY 12, 2021

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblywoman  JOANN DOWNEY

District 11 (Monmouth)

Assemblyman  ERIC HOUGHTALING

District 11 (Monmouth)

 

Co-Sponsored by:

Assemblywoman Chaparro

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     “New Jersey Safe Storage of Firearms Act”; establishes certain requirements and penalties regarding firearm storage; repeals law governing minor’s access to firearm; requires AG to establish public awareness campaign regarding firearm storage; appropriates $500,000.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

  


An Act concerning safe storage of firearms, designated the “New Jersey Safe Storage of Firearms Act,” supplementing various parts of the statutory law, repealing sections 1 and 2 of P.L.1991, c.397 and sections 2 and 3 of P.L.1999, c.255, and making an appropriation.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.  This act shall be known and may be cited as the “New Jersey Safe Storage of Firearms Act.”

 

     2.    The Legislature finds and declares that:

     a.     Having unsecured personal firearms in the home puts both adults and children at significantly increased risk of accidental injury, accidental death, suicide by firearm, and increased lethality in domestic violence; 

     b.    Ownership of personal firearms in New Jersey has surged dramatically since 2019, increasing by more than 300 percent in 2020;

     c.     In 2018, 458 people died from unintentional firearm injuries,  116 of whom were children and teens;

     d.    The American Medical Association, American Public Health Association, and the New Jersey Public Health Association, among others, have declared gun violence a public health crisis;

     e.     Ensuring that firearms are secured and safely stored reduces the incidence and risk of theft or loss, thereby reducing trafficked guns; and

     f.     Enacting legislation to mandate the secure safe storage of firearms, along with public education, could save thousands of lives from accidental injuries, accidental death, suicide, and homicide.

 

     3.    a.  A legal owner of a firearm shall:

     (1)  store or secure a firearm that is not in use at a premises under the owner’s control, unloaded, in a gun safe or securely locked box or container; and

     (2)  store ammunition, separately, in a securely locked box or container.

     b.  Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent a legal owner from being authorized, pursuant to subsection e. of N.J.S.2C:39-6, to lawfully keep or carry about the owner’s place of business, residence, premises, or other land owned or possessed by the owner, any firearm, or from carrying the firearm, in the manner specified in subsection g. of N.J.S.2C:39-6.

     c.  This section shall not apply to a temporary transfer of a firearm authorized pursuant to section 1 of P.L.1992, c.74 (C.2C:58-3.1).

     d.  Except as provided in subsection e. of this section, if the legal owner of a firearm fails to store and secure the firearm properly in violation of subsection a. of this section, the legal owner:

     (1)  for a first offense, shall be sentenced to a period of community service of not less than 10 hours nor more than 40 hours with an entity with knowledge and experience in the prevention of gun violence approved by the Attorney General in accordance with subsection f. of this section; and

     (2)  for a second or subsequent offense, shall be guilty of a disorderly persons offense.

     e.     If the firearm of a legal owner who fails to store or secure the firearm properly in violation of this section is accessed by another person, and the access results in serious bodily injury or death, the legal owner shall be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree. 

     f.     The Attorney General shall establish a list of approved entities with knowledge and experience in the prevention of gun violence for which a person may perform a sentence of community service ordered by the court pursuant to paragraph (1) of subsection d. of this section. 

     g.  An approved entity shall offer community service that:

     (1)  incorporates gun violence prevention education; and

     (2)   effectuates behavioral change to meet the goals of gun violence prevention.

     h.  An approved entity may provide:

     (1)   online instruction related to gun violence prevention;

     (2)   gun violence prevention films; and

     (3)   gun violence prevention interventional activities as part of a New Jersey hospital-based gun violence intervention program.  

     i.     The Attorney General shall make the list of approved entities publicly available on the Internet website of the Department of Law and Public Safety.

 

     4.    a.  The Superintendent of State Police, in conjunction with the Attorney General, shall adopt guidelines in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act, P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), to require each licensed retail firearms dealer in the State, or the retail dealer’s employee, to provide to any person who receives, possesses, carries, or uses a firearm, a written warning printed on eight and one-half inches by 11 inches in size paper in not less than 14 point bold point type letters which shall state:

NEW JERSEY STATE LAW REQUIRES THAT ALL FIREARMS MUST BE STORED, UNLOADED, IN A SECURELY LOCKED GUN SAFE OR LOCKED CONTAINER, AND ALL AMMUNITION MUST BE STORED IN A SEPARATE, SECURELY LOCKED GUN SAFE OR LOCKED CONTAINER.  FAILURE TO DO SO IS PUNISHABLE BY LAW AND COULD RESULT IN FINES AND IMPRISONMENT.

     b.    The written warning provided pursuant to subsection a. of this section shall include the requirements and penalties imposed pursuant to P.L.  , c.   (C.     ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).

     c.     The superintendent shall provide each licensed retail firearms dealer with a sign to be displayed prominently at a conspicuous place on the dealer's business premises at each purchase counter.  The sign shall contain the statutory reference to section 3 of P.L.  , c.   (C.     ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill) and information concerning the Internet website that contains the provisions of section 3 of P.L.  , c.   (C.     ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).  The sign shall state substantially the following in one inch block letters:

NEW JERSEY STATE LAW REQUIRES THAT ALL FIREARMS MUST BE STORED, UNLOADED, IN A SECURELY LOCKED GUN SAFE OR LOCKED CONTAINER, AND ALL AMMUNITION MUST BE STORED IN A SEPARATE, SECURELY LOCKED GUN SAFE OR LOCKED CONTAINER.  FAILURE TO DO SO IS PUNISHABLE BY LAW AND COULD RESULT IN FINES AND IMPRISONMENT.

 

     5.  When a defendant is found guilty of second a or subsequent offense involving the unlawful storage or access of a firearm pursuant to paragraph (2) of subsection d. of section 3 of P.L.     , c.   (C.        ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill),  or a crime or offense involving the unlawful storage or access of a firearm in violation of subsection e. of section 3 of P.L.     , c.   (C.        ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), the court shall inform the defendant that the defendant is prohibited from purchasing, owning, possessing, or controlling a firearm pursuant to section 6 of P.L.1979, c.179 (C.2C:39-7) and from receiving or retaining a firearms purchaser identification card or permit to purchase a handgun pursuant to N.J.S.2C:58-3. 

     The court shall order the defendant to arrange for the immediate surrender to a law enforcement officer of any firearm that has not already been seized or surrendered and any firearms purchaser identification card or permit to purchase a handgun possessed by the defendant.  No later than five business days after the order is entered, however, the defendant may arrange to sell any surrendered firearm to a licensed retail dealer of firearms who shall be authorized to take possession of that purchased firearm from the law enforcement agency to which it was surrendered no later than 10 business days after the order is entered. Any card or permit issued to the defendant shall be deemed immediately revoked.  The court shall establish a process for notifying the appropriate authorities of the conviction requiring the revocation of the card or permit.

     A law enforcement officer accepting a surrendered firearm shall provide the defendant with a receipt listing the date of surrender, the name of the defendant, and any item that has been surrendered, including the serial number, manufacturer, and model of the surrendered firearm.  The defendant shall provide a copy of this receipt to the prosecutor within 48 hours of service of the order, and shall attest under penalty that any firearms owned or possessed at the time of the order have been transferred in accordance with this section and that the defendant currently does not possess any firearms. The defendant alternatively may attest under penalty that the defendant did not own or possess a firearm at the time of the order and currently does not possess a firearm.  If the court, upon motion of the prosecutor, finds probable cause that the defendant has failed to surrender any firearm, card, or permit, the court may order a search for and removal of these items at any location where the judge has reasonable cause to believe these items are located.  The judge shall state with specificity the reasons for and the scope of the search and seizure authorized by the order.

     A law enforcement officer who receives a firearm that is surrendered, but not purchased and taken possession of by a licensed retail dealer of firearms within 10 business days of when the order is entered pursuant to this subsection, may dispose of the surrendered firearm in accordance with the provisions of N.J.S.2C:64-6.  A firearm purchased by a licensed retail dealer from a defendant shall become part of the inventory of the dealer.

 

     6.    The Attorney General shall establish a public awareness campaign to inform and educate the public concerning :

     a.     the provisions of section 3 of P.L.     , c.   (C.        ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill); the dangers associated with the presence of a loaded, unsecured firearm in the home; and the requirements and penalties imposed pursuant to P.L.     , c.   (C.        ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).

     b.    The public awareness campaign shall be implemented in media outlets which include, but are not limited to: Statewide newspapers, radio, public service announcements, social media, television ads, and other media outlets deemed appropriate by the Attorney General.

     c.     There is appropriated from the General Fund $500,000 to the Department of Law and Public Safety to develop and implement the public awareness campaign.

 

     7.    a.   The Attorney General shall collect and analyze data related to implementation of P.L.     , c.   (C.        ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill) including the number of violations that have occurred and the disposition of each violation. 

     b.    The Attorney General shall conduct a study to determine the overall impact of P.L.     , c.   (C.        ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).  The study shall consider the effectiveness of the bill on public safety and the effectiveness of the community service requirements established under P.L.     , c.   (C.        ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).

     c.     The Attorney General shall submit annually a report summarizing the analysis and study conducted pursuant to this section to the Legislature pursuant to section 2 of P.L.1991, c.164 (C.52:14-19.1) and shall make the summary report available to the public on the Internet website of the Department of Law and Public Safety.  The Attorney General shall submit and publish the report by November 1st of each year.

 

     8.    The following sections are repealed:

     Section 1 of P.L.1991, c.397 (C.2C:58-15);

     Section 2 of P.L.1991, c.397 (C.2C:58-16);

     Section 2 of P.L.1999, c.255 (C.2C:58-17); and

     Section 3 of P.L.1999, c.255 (C.2C:58-18).

 

     9.    This act shall take effect on the first day of the fourth month next following the date of enactment.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This bill, titled the “New Jersey Safe Storage of Firearms Act,” establishes penalties for improper storage of a firearm that results in access of the firearm; requires a warning to be issued to firearms purchasers; and requires the Attorney General to establish a public awareness campaign regarding the risk associated with improper storage of a firearm.  The bill also repeals the provisions of current law that establish penalties only for a minor’s access of an improperly stored firearm, and makes an appropriation.

Under current law, there are storage requirements and penalties imposed if a minor accesses a loaded firearm that is not in use.  However, there currently are no general requirements for storing firearms when they are not in use. 

     This bill requires a legal owner of a firearm to: (1) store or secure a firearm that is not in use at a premises under the owner’s control unloaded, in a gun safe or securely locked box or container; and (2) store ammunition, separately, in a securely locked box or container.

     Under the bill, if the owner of a firearm fails to store the firearm properly as required under the bill, the owner will, for a first offense, be sentenced to period of community service of not less than 10 hours and not more than 40 hours.  For a second or subsequent offense, the owner is guilty of a disorderly persons offense.  If an improperly stored firearm is accessed by another person, and the access results in serious bodily injury to or the death of the person who accesses the firearm or another person, the owner is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree.  A disorderly persons offense is punishable by up to six months’ imprisonment, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.  A crime of the fourth degree is punishable by up to 18 months’ imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

     The Attorney General is required under the bill to establish a list of approved entities with knowledge and experience in the prevention of gun violence for which a person may perform a sentence of court-ordered community service.  An approved entity is required to offer community service that incorporates gun violence prevention education and effectuates behavioral change to meet the goals of gun violence prevention.  An approved entity also may provide online instruction related to gun violence prevention, gun violence prevention films; and gun violence prevention interventional activities to be conducted as part of a New Jersey hospital-based gun violence intervention program. 

     The bill requires the court to notify a person who is convicted of a second or subsequent crime or offense involving the access of an improperly stored firearm or access that results in serious bodily injury or death that he or she is prohibited from purchasing, owning, possessing, or controlling a firearm, and from receiving or retaining a permit to purchase a handgun (PPH) or a firearms purchaser identification card (FPIC). 

     The court also is to order a defendant to arrange for the immediate surrender to a law enforcement officer of any firearm that has not already been seized or surrendered, as well as any PPH or FPIC.  Within five days of the entry of an order, the defendant may arrange to sell the surrendered firearm to a licensed retail dealer.  The dealer then has 10 days to take possession of the firearm.  A law enforcement officer accepting a surrendered firearm is to provide the defendant with a receipt, which the defendant is to present to the prosecutor as proof that the firearm was surrendered.  If a firearm is surrendered to a law enforcement officer, but not sold to a licensed retail dealer, the law enforcement officer is authorized to dispose of the firearm in accordance with the State’s civil asset forfeiture laws.

     In addition, the bill requires a retail dealer or employee to notify a firearms purchaser, and post signage, explaining the New Jersey Safe Storage of Firearms Act and warning of the dangers associated with having a firearm in the home and the penalties imposed for unlawful access of an improperly stored firearm. 

     The provisions of the bill also require the Attorney General to establish a public awareness campaign to inform and educate the public concerning the provisions of the bill, including the requirements and penalties imposed under the bill, and the dangers associated with the presence of a loaded, unsecured firearm in the home.  The public awareness campaign is to be implemented in media outlets which include, but are not limited to: Statewide newspapers, radio, public service announcements, social media, television ads, and other media outlets deemed appropriate by the Attorney General.  The bill appropriates $500,000 to fund the development and implementation of the public awareness campaign.

     The bill also requires the Attorney General to collect and analyze data related to implementation of the bill, including the number of violations that have occurred and the disposition of each violation.  The Attorney General also is required to study the overall impact of bill, considering the effectiveness of the bill on public safety and the effectiveness of the community service requirements established under bill.  The Attorney General is required to submit annually a report to the Legislature summarizing the analysis and study conducted pursuant to the bill, and make the report available to the public on the Internet website of the Department of Law and Public Safety.  The report is to be submitted and published by November 1st of each year.

     Finally, the bill repeals current law governing a minor’s access to a firearm, to be replaced with the requirements and penalties established under the bill.