New Jersey's "Graves Act" is one of the toughest gun laws in the country. Unlike many states, New Jersey doesn't distinguish between airsoft guns or BB guns and other firearms. While you may be able to easily buy a used airsoft gun or BB gun at a flea market or yard sale, you technically need a firearms license to own it. Without a license, you face strict minimum penalties including jail time, even if it's your first offense.
A 22-year-old man in Glassboro, New Jersey found out the hard way. Police responding to complaints from neighbors arrested the young man for having an unlicensed airsoft gun. According to local news reports, he was shooting rubber duckies in his back yard.
Applying for a Permit
Your first step in applying for a permit to own an airsoft gun is to complete the application and take it to your local police station. There, you will be fingerprinted. You also must sign a consent form for police to check your mental health records.
You'll need to provide two character references. You may want to call your local police department ahead of time and find out if there are additional requirements regarding your references. For example, some departments don't allow you to use references who are relatives or related to you by marriage.
Once you've completed and filed the application, it will take at least 30 days for the police department to issue your card. In some parts of New Jersey it may take longer, depending on the size and location of the police department and the resources available. With this ID card, you may purchase a long gun. If you want a handgun-style airsoft or BB gun, you must apply for a handgun permit.
Buying Airsoft Guns in New Jersey
Once you get your firearms permit, you can purchase your airsoft gun at a dealer. The dealer will give you a form to complete for an additional background check at the time of purchase. Make sure you also bring a government-issued photo ID.
While you don't have to register firearms you own with the state, dealers are required to record detailed information about the transaction. This requirement technically applies to airsoft guns and BB guns as well. If you purchase one of these guns at a sporting goods store, you likely will be asked for your firearms permit, and the purchase will be recorded in the store's logs.
However, you can also buy airsoft guns and BB guns at flea markets or garage sales. Since the individuals there typically aren't licensed dealers, they aren't going to make any record of the transaction. This sort of sale of used guns is legal in New Jersey, but you still need a firearms permit to keep and use the gun.
While you aren't required to register any guns you own, New Jersey does have a voluntary registration system. Registering your gun can be beneficial if, for example, the gun is stolen.
Penalties for Graves Act Violations
The Graves Act includes a mandatory minimum prison sentence of between 5 and 10 years for first-time offenders. An offender is not eligible for parole until she has served a minimum of three years.
While it is possible to apply for a waiver of the mandatory minimum sentence, prosecutors are reluctant to agree to waivers. If you don't have a license and you get caught with an airsoft or BB gun, your best bet is to hire an experienced attorney who specializes in defending people charged with Graves Act offenses.
If you want to own an airsoft gun in New Jersey, you must have a general firearms license. This is true even if the gun was lawfully purchased at a flea market or sporting goods store.
- New Jersey Legislature: Graves Act
- 6ABC Action News Philadelphia: Man Arrested for Firing Air-Soft Gun in Glassboro
- New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife: NJ Air Gun FAQs
- New Jersey State Police: Firearms FAQs
- Giffords Law Center: Registration of Firearms in New Jersey
- New Jersey Second Amendment Society: How to Obtain a Firearms ID Card in New Jersey
Jennifer Mueller has a J.D. from the University of Indiana, Maurer School of Law. She has been sharing her legal knowledge on the internet since 2009. Mueller has been published in the Indiana Law Journal, and her writing appears on legal websites such as LegalZoom.