TRENTON – The Firearms Task Force created in concert with New Jersey’s so-called “one-handgun-a-month” law has issued its first report, which includes recommendations to address concerns of firearms collectors and competitive and recreational firearms users.
The task force is recommending changes that include clarifying the intent of the law with regard to multiple handgun transfers involving retail dealers, identifying a limited number of exemptions to the one handgun limitation and strengthening criminal laws to deter potential “straw purchasers” who fraudulently seek to qualify for an exemption by making false statements in the application process.
“Our task force heard from a wide range of people who brought to our attention what they felt were potential problems in the new one-handgun-a-month law,” said Sen. Fred Madden (D-Camden and Gloucester), who served as Vice Chairman on the Firearms Task Force. “The adjustments proposed in our first report address those problems and are consistent with the new law’s intent. They in no way compromise its effectiveness.”
Sen. Sandra Cunningham (D-Hudson) a prime sponsor of the one-handgun-a-month law and a member of the task force, said the proposed changes will ensure that New Jersey’s streets are kept safer while satisfying the needs of firearms retailers and collectors who were concerned they would be inadvertently affected by the law.
“The primary purpose of the original legislation was to deter ‘straw purchases’ of multiple handguns – purchases made by people for the purpose of selling or transferring those guns to others who otherwise could not lawfully obtain handguns,” Sen. Cunningham said. “The law remains true to that intent, but the changes the task force is proposing will make sure firearms businesses and people who have a legitimate need for an exception to the law are not adversely affected by the limitations.”
The task force’s report makes four recommendations:
• The Superintendent of State Police should be authorized to issue exemptions if the applicant demonstrates to the Superintendent that specific, special circumstances apply to the transaction. These circumstances pertain to inherited handguns, special collections and shooting competitions.
• The criminal laws regarding violations of the firearm purchase requirements should be amended to include a new offense for those who fraudulently attempt to qualify for an exemption to the one-handgun law by intentionally making materially false statements in the application process or otherwise.
• Enactment of an amendment to clarify the one-handgun limitation does not apply to otherwise lawful transactions between licensed retail dealers, registered wholesale dealers, and registered manufacturers, or to transfers of handguns from a private individual to a licensed retail dealer, a registered wholesale dealer, or a registered manufacturer.
• The one-handgun limitation should not apply to a transaction where a person purchases a handgun from a dealer and returns it to the dealer in an exchange for another handgun, all within a 30-day period.
The Firearms Task Force was created by an executive order issued by Gov. Jon S. Corzine on June 25, 2009, the day the one-handgun-a-month law was approved by the Legislature. The task force began its work July 27, 2009. The executive order directed that the initial report be submitted with 90 days of the task force’s first meeting to allow any recommended legislative changes to be enacted during the current legislative session.
In addition to Sen. Madden and Sen. Cunningham, the task force included two Assembly members, representatives of the New Jersey State Police, the Attorney General’s office, the County Prosecutor’s Association and representatives of gun owners groups and gun safety advocates.
The initial report is available at: http://nj.gov/governor/news/news/2009/approved/news_archive.html