For Pennsylvania residents who work, live, or own land in New Jersey, a gun license could be the documentation you need to protect yourself and your Constitutional rights to keep and bear arms. With highly detailed, narrowly defined gun rules and strict mandatory minimum sentences for even first-time offenders, New Jersey is known as one of the toughest states in the country for legal firearms owners. With so many visitors to Pennsylvania’s Largest Gun Show splitting their time between the Keystone state and our Eastern neighbor, your gun rights in New Jersey are an important topic and one that presents a lot of confusion for weapon owners who want to make sure they’re protected from both physical threats of harm and over-zealous bureaucracy.
Information in this blog is taken, from among other sources, N.J.S.2C:39 and 58. While every effort is made to accurately represent the laws, rules, and regulations of the State of New Jersey, this blog is not legal advice. If you have any questions about your particular situation, such as if you need a specific gun license in New Jersey for your intended firearms use, contact an experienced attorney. Educate yourself before you enter a potentially dangerous situation.
Owning a Gun in the Garden State
The good news is that for most legal gun owners, there is a clear legal path to having your favorite firearms in New Jersey. Registration for guns purchased out of state is not required, though it is a voluntary option if you choose to do so. In your home, place of business, or on land you own or possess, you can legally possess a loaded rifle, shotgun, or handgun without a New Jersey gun license [N.J.S.2C:39-6e]. As long as it’s transported unloaded in a locked case that’s placed in the trunk of the vehicle, or failing that, another locked compartment other than the glove box or as far away from the driver as possible, you can also transport it to and from your residence, a place of business, land you own, an authorized shooting range, gun smith’s shop, or legal hunting area with a valid hunting license.
It’s important to note that New Jersey identifies a wide range of “assault weapons” which may not be possessed by the general public, even if purchased elsewhere. This includes both specifically mentioned models and those of similar design. Homemade firearms, like those assembled from the much demonized 80% lower, are illegal, as are the unmilled receiver blocks themselves, whether they are of a style deemed to be an “assault weapon” or not.
When a Gun License is Needed
There are two types of “gun license” in New Jersey: a Permit to Carry a Handgun (PCH) and a Firearms Purchaser Identification Card (FID). While there are a few other permits pertaining to firearms, the most common being a special permit to purchase a pistol, most Pennsylvania residents will not need or have access to them.
- FID – Granted on a shall-issue basis–meaning that the issuing authority must approve your application if you fulfill the legal requirements to qualify for it–the FID is needed for any firearms transfer within New Jersey. It is also required to purchase handgun ammunition, and it can offer you a little more leeway in situations left to an officer’s discretion, such as transporting an unloaded rifle in the back seat of a pickup versus the floorboard, which could conceivably be interpreted as farther away. While that distinction may not stand up in court, it’s better to cover your bases and avoid attorney’s fees whenever possible.
More than just for purchases, the FID serves as your proof of a legal right to own firearms in the state. Should you need to pawn, send your gun for warranty service, or trust it to a gunsmith, the FID is the legal documentation you will need to ensure it can be returned to you. While not a concealed carry permit, it’s a handy license for New Jersey that any gun owner who plans on taking their weapon to the state should have.
- PCH – The PCH allows you to carry a loaded pistol or revolver anywhere it isn’t completely prohibited, such as on the grounds of an educational institution. These are considered may-issue permits, meaning the issuing authority has no requirement to approve applications even if the requirements for obtaining one are met, the requirements, however, are written extremely narrowly, allowing a minimal opportunity for approval to move forward on the basis of merit. While special paths forward exist for retired law enforcement officers, military service members, and armed security guards who may need to carry a weapon related to their dangerous professions, the general
public must show justifiable need. Justifiable need sounds incredibly vague but, luckily, the courts have provided guidance:
“…urgent necessity for self-protection, as evidenced by specific threats or previous attacks which demonstrate a special danger to the applicant’s life that cannot be avoided by means other than by issuance of a permit to carry a handgun.”
As you can imagine, an authority could easily choose to find a variety of ways to use this definition to deny a PCH. As an example, if a perceived threat exists in New Jersey, they could find that remaining in Pennsylvania would avoid that threat–denying your application on lack of justifiable need.
Applying For Your New Jersey Gun License
As an out-of-state applicant, you would file your FID application with the New Jersey State Police barracks closest to you geographically (excluding barracks on toll roads).
- If you are already a dual citizen, contact your local police department and ask for their ORI number. – This routs your application to the proper barracks for processing.
- Find your nearest State Police barracks and get their ORI number. – Choose the nearest barracks from this list. No refunds are made for improper submission, so be sure to enter it carefully.
- Fill out the online application. – You can find the online FID application here. The system will then guide you through the process of filling out the application.
- If you have not previously been fingerprinted by the state, make an appointment to be fingerprinted. – Once the application is complete, the confirmation page will provide instructions for scheduling your appointment with IdentoGO.
Currently, your approval as well as your FID documents will be provided via email after approval. This process is required to take no more than 30 days, however, gun owners frequently report longer wait times.
The PCH process is lengthier and requires a few more steps. The final application will still be turned into either your local police department if a full-time resident or the nearest New Jersey State Police barracks if out of state.
- Download the PCH Application and fill it out. – The application for your gun license in New Jersey is available online as well as a more detailed set of the instructions summarized below. The form will need to be filled out in triplicate and notarized.
- Make sure your references are good. – The form requires three references that have known you for at least three years. They will be contacted and verified.
- Say cheese! – You will need four color passport photos. These 2” X 2” photos are available at many drugstores and photo kiosks.
- Consent to a mental health records search. – Form SP-66 gives the state the legal right to request your private medical information for the purpose of evaluating your application.
- Submit your justifiable reason for needing a PCH. – Be as detailed as possible and understand the review authority is likely to try to find a way it can be avoided by another means. Be specific about why there is no alternative.
- Get qualified. – You will need written proof you have passed a qualification program given by an authorized instructor and that the qualification is recent. This will cover gun safety 101 but also demonstrate your ability to use a firearm reasonably accurately.
- Pay your fee. – You will need a money order for $50.00 made out to Treasurer, State of New Jersey.
- Submit your application. – Turn your entire packet of materials into the appropriate police department or State Police barracks.
- Wait for your approval or denial. – The police will investigate and either deny your application or approve it to move forward.
- Present the approved application to a Superior Court Judge. – The judge reviewing your application will then determine whether you get a PCH or not with a timeline that realistically varies based on caseload. The decision can be appealed, however, that litigation can be both costly and lengthy as it moves through the courts.
Protect Your Rights And Your Guns
Law-abiding gun owners should have access to their firearms for shooting sports and self-defense. Knowing the law and ensuring you’re following it is part of responsibly using your second amendment rights. If you’re looking for a new gun or accessory for your New Jersey home-away-from-home, visit your local gun show. It offers a unique, family-friendly experience with like-minded gun owners and retailers who believe in our American freedom to securely protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our property. Get your advance tickets to an Eagle Shows Gun Show near you today.