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Obtaining a Firearms ID Card (Gun Permit) in New Jersey
The Firearms ID process
New Jersey law states that it is unlawful to purchase or possess a firearm without having first obtained a New Jersey Firearms Identification card. It should be noted that there is a difference between purchase and possession. There are specific exceptions to the possession laws in order for New Jersey law to comply with the second amendment. However, there are essentially no exceptions when it comes to the purchase of firearms. If you wish to purchase a firearm in New Jersey you must have a firearms ID card.
The process of obtaining a Firearms ID card in New Jersey requires several steps. This article will outline those steps in detail.
The first step is to complete the STS-33 application. This is a state form that is used by all police departments. It is a one page application that asks basic information concerning the applicants residence, background, medical history, employment, criminal history, and reference information. There is a New Jersey statute that requires police departments to use this form and a separate statute that prohibits them from adding additional information to the form. Once the application is completed it is filed with the local police in the town in which the applicant resides. In the event that a municipality does not have a police department the application can be filed with the state police at the nearest state police barracks. The fee for filing the application is $5.
Along with the STS-33 application a Consent for Mental Health records must be completed. This is another one page form that asks basic information. Many people are concerned that their medical records are being released by the signing of this form however that is not the case. The mental health records released by the signing of this form relate only to commitments in mental institutions or psychiatric hospitals. If a person is committed to such an institution a record is kept with the county. The record does not contain detailed medical reports or records but just a record of the commitment itself.
Once the mental health form and gun permit application are filed, the applicant must be fingerprinted. In New Jersey, a company known as MorphoTrak provides the fingerprinting services for the state. The applicant must make an appointment with the company and pay a fee to have the fingerprints taken. After the fingerprints are taken, the applicant has completed all obligatory steps to secure the firearms ID card and now just has to wait for the police to conduct their investigation and render a decision on the application.
In order for the police chief to make a decision they typically take several steps. First, they send out letters to the references provided by the applicant. The references are asked general questions about the applicant. Applicants should follow up with their references to ensure that they have been contacted by the police. My office has seen several instances where the police have denied an application because they could not reach the references. The police do not always try hard to contact the references. Sometimes they have an incorrect phone number or address and from that, assume that the reference does not exist or is not complying with the investigation.
The police also receive the results of the fingerprinting. This shows any arrests or convictions that the applicant has received. Arrests for indictable offenses (felonies) will result in an automatic denial under New Jersey law. Disorderly persons offense (misdemeanors) involving domestic violence will also result in an automatic denial. The police have discretion regarding arrests not resulting in conviction and with convictions for other minor offenses.
The police will also receive a report from the county regarding any mental health commitments. If a person has been committed to a mental health institution and does not have a current report from a doctor indicating that they do not suffer from a mental defect or disease, they will likely be denied their firearms ID card.
Finally, the police check the applicant's employment information. They typically just confirm dates of employment and position however this may vary from department to department.
Once the police have all of the information above, they can make a decision. The law states that the police have 30 days to make a decision unless good cause for denial exists. Case law has held that the police do not have to issue a decision if they are awaiting reports such as an FBI report or mental health report. The typical time frame from application to decision tends to be more like 90 to 120 days lately.
If the police grant the permit the individual can generally pick up their ID card immediately. If the application is denied there is an appeal process by which an individual can seek review of the denial in the county Superior Court. The most common reasons for denial are (1) falsification of the application and (2) that the issuance of the New Jersey gun permit would not be in the public health, safety, or welfare.