Beware, even if you are doing the right thing.
This is a common refrain for New Jersey gun owners who are accustomed to bad gun laws that ensnare law-abiding citizens far too often. Despite our warnings, more is on tap. On Thursday February 8, the Senate Law & Public Safety Committee is picking up where they left off in 2023. S.1425 is on the agenda, and it purports to go after gun traffickers, however, it could potentially do much more than that.
Despite our warnings and objections, a nearly identical bill passed one chamber last year, but not the other. It failed to advance to the Governor as time ran out on the 2023 session. We were spared by the clock last year, however, anti-gun lawmakers in Trenton are back with their recycled bad idea.
First, let us be very clear. We strongly oppose firearms trafficking, and although the rationale of preventing criminals from obtaining guns is a good one, this bill poses a threat to dealers and others the way it is currently constructed. Fortunately, this issue is easily remedied by amending one phrase.
For there to be criminal conduct, the language of this bill says that a dealer “reasonably should know” that the transferee is prohibited. This completely ignores the reality of the strict firearm transfer process in New Jersey. Every transaction by a licensed dealer requires a NICS background check. If NICS shows a purchaser is not prohibited, then that dealer is receiving permission from the State to lawfully transfer the firearm. How is it that a dealer "reasonably should know" something about the purchaser when the State itself tells the dealer it is OK to transfer the firearm? Alternatively, bad actors could still be punished by simply amending the language to “knows” the transaction is illegal. For example, ignoring the NICS check or being aware that the lawful purchase was then going to be part of a straw purchase. But a dealer that lawfully sells a gun by relying on the NICS process should not be subject to prosecution if that gun is then used illegally by someone else without their foreknowledge.
And please remember, current law already exists and harshly punishes gun trafficking. A simple online search will show the New Jersey Attorney General taking victory laps after charging alleged traffickers. This legislation is not only unnecessary, it is dangerous for all the new pitfalls it creates. We are diligently working in Trenton to either defeat the bill or confine it to punishing only legitimate bad actors. We are early in the legislative process with several more steps to go, but continue to follow these NRA-ILA alerts on this issue and any others impacting New Jersey NRA members.