Understanding NJ Antique Firearm Laws

Everything You Need to Know about Antique Guns in New Jersey

What are the laws for antique firearms in NJ? Maybe you inherited one from your father or grandfather or came across one that piqued your interest in a consignment shop. Antique guns hold a special place for people looking to connect to earlier times, like history buffs or family members who pass a gun down through the generations. Gun collectors are also likely to have one or more antique firearms to round out their assortment of guns. You might have even received one as a gift for a special occasion. And though they may seem like quaint reminders of earlier times in American history, antique guns are subject to regulation as firearms in New Jersey.

What is Considered an Antique Firearm in NJ?

Under New Jersey law, an antique firearm is non-operational, does not fire ammunition available today, or was made before 1898. According to N.J.S.A. 2C:39-1, it is also a handgun, shotgun, or rifle that “does not fire fixed ammunition regardless of the date of manufacture” and is owned as historical memorabilia or as a “curiosity” or “ornament.”

An antique handgun is “historical in nature” and uses “match, friction, flint, … percussion ignition…or a pin-fire cartridge in which the pin is part of the cartridge” or commercially unavailable ammunition. Antique firearms also include muzzle-loading rifles, shotguns, or pistols that use black powder but not fixed ammunition. In addition, replicas that cannot use rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition or use only obsolete ammunition are antique firearms.

Are Antique Guns Legal in New Jersey?

Antique firearms are not illegal in and of themselves in New Jersey; however, they can become illegal if the person who has one is not following the laws regarding antique weapons. When you have an antique gun in your possession, whether by gift, inheritance, or purchase, you can violate New Jersey law for unlawful possession, transport, or disposal of a firearm or, for a certain persons violation, a second degree crime. However, it is a third degree crime for one previously convicted of a disorderly persons offense related to domestic violence to possess a firearm (N.J.S.A. 2C 39-7). Furthermore, you can face multiple unlawful weapon possession charges for each antique gun you have. That means a possible lengthy prison term and hundreds of thousands in fines, depending on the crimes.

Obligations to Carry an Antique Gun under NJ Law

A permit is necessary to possess an antique handgun, and all guns without serial numbers are illegal in New Jersey, according to a recent law. It is a third degree crime to knowingly possess a firearm without a serial number and a second degree crime to sell or transport one to anyone other than an authorized firearms dealer. Antique firearms typically do not have serial numbers, so the Attorney General’s office has issued guidelines to prosecutors and law enforcement not to enforce the law concerning guns made before 1968 when guns have no serial numbers. Federally licensed gun dealers may place serial numbers on firearms without them.

And yet, it is also illegal to carry a gun without a permit unless the individual is transporting the firearm to display at an exhibition sponsored by law enforcement, a gun club, or a gun collectors club, so long as the sponsor follows state police procedures. Thus, an FID is unnecessary for an unloaded antique rifle, shotgun, or one fired solely for exhibition or demonstration purposes at an authorized range and approved event. There are other exceptions as well, such as transporting a firearm to and from one’s residence and place of business, provided it is done in accordance with the law.

What is Required to Purchase Antique Firearms in NJ?

While firearm purchases require a valid firearms purchaser identification card (FID) by law in New Jersey (N.J. Admin C. 13:54-1.3), a person buying an antique long arm (rifle or shotgun) does not need one. To purchase an antique handgun, the buyer must apply for a permit, providing their identification showing they are 18 or over. They must not be a person prohibited from having a firearm, and they must have an FID. They must demonstrate the ability to safely handle a weapon by completing an authorized training course, paying fees, and submitting to a background check. A purchaser may buy one handgun but an unrestricted number of rifles and shotguns so long as the application is approved. To possess a firearm outside of a residence or business, an owner must have a legal carry permit.

What is the Charge for Unlawfully Possessing an Antique Firearm in NJ?

Under N.J.S.A. 2C:38-5, it is a third degree crime to carry an antique firearm without a carry permit under N.J.S.A. 2C:58-4 if the gun fires by air, spring, elastic band, or gas, and “ejects bullets or missiles smaller than three-eighths of an inch in diameter,” and capable of injuring someone. Otherwise, it is a second degree crime. And carrying a loaded rifle or shotgun is a third degree crime unless it falls under a legal exception. Finally, the knowing and unauthorized possession of a firearm on school, college, or university premises is a third degree crime.

What are the Consequences for Illegal Possession of an Antique Gun in New Jersey?

A third degree criminal conviction carries a three-to-five-year prison sentence and a potential $15,000.00 fine. However, a second degree criminal conviction is far worse. If convicted, you could face a maximum of ten years in prison and a $150,000.00 fine. Moreover, gun crime convictions carry mandatory minimum sentences. According to the Graves Act, convicted defendants must serve one-half to one-third of their sentence before applying for parole and early release. A gun crime conviction may also disqualify a convicted individual from diverting their sentence to a first-time offender’s program to avoid prison.

Can Someone Gift you an Antique Gun in NJ?

An FID is unnecessary when someone inherits an antique firearm. They can keep the inherited gun so long as they are not certain persons prohibited from having a firearm. Prohibited or certain persons are those with prior criminal convictions, subject to a domestic violence restraining order, or mentally or physically incapacitated, to name the most prominent categories of those who may not possess a firearm (N.J. Admin C. 13:54-1.13). Ineligible heirs to a firearm have six months to sell the gun to a licensed dealer or turn it over to the chief of police or Superintendent.

Giving an antique firearm as a “gift” requires Certificate of Eligibility by the Person transferring and receiving the firearm and a Form STS – 33 (Transfer of Ownership). Furthermore, you cannot avoid purchasing requirements by receiving a gift. It is unlawful to sell, give, transfer, assign, dispose or receive, purchase, or acquire a gun (unless it is an antique rifle or shotgun) other than from a licensed firearms dealer with a valid FID and permit for a handgun. Notably, a person receiving a firearm as a gift, even antique, can’t be disqualified from firearms ownership pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3(c).

Contact our Experienced Antique Firearm Lawyers to Discuss Your Concerns about Antique Gun Laws in NJ

Our talented, knowledgeable gun lawyers possess long-term experience with New Jersey antique firearms regulations and if you find yourself arrested for an antique weapon, we can help you defend against the charges. Although the state is tough on gun crimes, they cannot charge you with crimes that do not apply. For example, knowledge is an element of possession. Additionally, an attorney at our firm may discover you have other defenses after learning of your arrest after an unlawful search and seizure. Each case is unique, and yours may have legal irregularities or ambiguities that a skillful gun law attorney on our team can exploit to your advantage.

Consult with an erudite NJ gun defense lawyer today by contacting us at (201) 614-2474) to address all of your questions and concerns regarding antique firearms, what you need to purchase the specific type of gun you desire, if you have unfulfilled obligations to possess or carry a relic or inherited weapon, and other specific issues that may leave you feeling overwhelmed and confused. If you have been arrested for unlawfully possessing antique guns in New Jersey, let us get rolling on your defense today.