What is an assault weapon and who can legally possess them in Pennsylvania or New Jersey?
Our criminal defense law firm represents individuals charged with gun and firearm offenses in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. As I’ve written in previous articles, the two states treat these weapons differently, especially with regards to their general possession, purchase and the ability of an owner to carry them outside of his or her home or place of business.
Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act – What is a firearm?
In Pennsylvania, under its Uniform Firearms Act (Title 18, Section 6101) regulates the possession and use of firearms within the Commonwealth. The definition of a firearm within the Commonwealth is “any pistol or revolver with a barrel length less than 15”, any shotgun with a barrel length less than 18” inches, any rifle with a barrel length less than 16”, or any pistol, revolver, rifle, or shotgun with an overall length of less than 26”. Pennsylvania determines the barrel length of the firearm by measuring from the muzzle barrel to the face of the closed action, bolt, or cylinder, whichever is applicable to that particular weapon.
Pennsylvania doesn’t place limitations on the type of firearm but does regulate who may possess a firearm
Unlike New Jersey, Pennsylvania does not limit the type of weapon which a person may possess. This means that a person within the Commonwealth may possess a handgun, rifle, shotgun, or an assault weapon without the need for any type of purchaser identification card or permit. The Commonwealth however does limit who may possess firearms.
Under Section 6105 (Title 18) the following individuals may not possess a firearm:
- A person under the age of 18
- A person convicted of a violent felony or “enumerated offense”
- Undocumented immigrant
- Mentally ill
- A drug addict or “habitual drunkard”
- Any person who has been convicted of 3 separate DUI charges within a 5 year period
- Any person subject to an active protection from abuse order (PFA)
Permit to Carry a Handgun in Pennsylvania
Keep in mind that while a person may possess a handgun within the Commonwealth, that possession is limited to one’s home or place of business. A permit is required to carry a handgun outside of these areas. If a person carries outside of his or her home or place of business he violates Section 6106 of Pennsylvania’s Firearm Statute.
New Jersey Firearm Possession Requirements – Purchaser Identification Card & Permits
In New Jersey, a person can’t purchase any firearm without a purchaser identification card. A person who obtains a firearm without obtaining either a permit to purchase and/or a purchaser identification card violates 2C: 39-5 – Unlawful Possession of a Weapon. While firearms such as rifles and shotguns require that a person first obtain a firearm purchaser identification card, anyone who wants to obtain a handgun must first obtain a permit to purchase the handgun. The permit is only valid for 90 days and is required for the purchase of each handgun. Further, New Jersey limits the number of handguns that a person may purchase at a time (one handgun within a 30 day period)
New Jersey – Assault Weapons & Handguns – Permit to Purchase Required
With regards to assault rifles or weapons, New Jersey requires a separate permit under 2C: 58-5. Any person in New Jersey who wants to possess an assault rifle must apply for a license to do so by filing an application in the Superior Court in the county in which he resides or conducts his business.
This process is similar to a permit to carry a handgun under 2C: 58-4. For a handgun however, a person must submit an application to either the chief of police for that municipality in New Jersey or the State Trooper Superintendent.
Once the application is submitted, the applicant will only receive an approval if he or she can demonstrate that he is familiar with the safe operation of the weapon and has a justifiable need to carry it. If the application for the permit to carry a handgun is denied then that applicant may file an appeal with the Superior Court with the county that he made the application.
In New Jersey an “Assault firearm” means: (1) The following firearms:
- Algimec AGM1 type
- Any shotgun with a revolving cylinder such as the “Street Sweeper” or “Striker 12”
- Armalite AR-180 type
- Australian Automatic Arms SAR
- Avtomat Kalashnikov type semi-automatic firearms
- Beretta AR-70 and BM59 semi-automatic firearms
- Bushmaster Assault Rifle
- Calico M-900 Assault carbine
- M-900 CETME G3 Chartered Industries of Singapore SR-88 type
- Colt AR-15 and
- CAR-15 series Daewoo K-1, K-2, Max 1 and Max 2,
- AR 100 types Demro TAC-1 carbine type Encom MP-9 and MP-45 carbine types FAMAS MAS223 types FN-FAL, FN-LAR,
- or FN-FNC type semi-automatic firearms Franchi SPAS 12 and
- LAW 12 shotguns
(2) Any firearm manufactured under any designation which is substantially identical to any of the firearms listed above.
(3) A semi-automatic shotgun with either a magazine capacity exceeding six rounds, a pistol grip, or a folding stock.
(4) A semi-automatic rifle with a fixed magazine capacity exceeding 10 rounds. “Assault firearm” shall not include a semi-automatic rifle which has an attached tubular deviceand which is capable of operating only with .22 caliber rimfire ammunition.
(5) A part or combination of parts designed or intended to convert a firearm into an assault firearm, or any combination of parts from which an assault firearm may be readily assembled if those parts are in the possession or under the control of the same person.
Firearm Possession & Drug Crimes in New Jersey
Even if a person is in lawful possession of a gun or firearm within the Garden State, New Jersey has a separate criminal offense for the possession of these weapons while in the course of committing drug related offenses which would include the following:
- Maintaining or operating a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) production facility– 2C: 35-4
- Manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing of CDS under 2C: 35-5
Contact Our Criminal Defense Lawyers in PA & NJ
Please click here to contact our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers. We offer free case reviews and serve the following areas in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Atlantic City, Camden, Cherry Hill, Chester, Conshohocken, Doylestown, Media, Norristown, Philadelphia, Pottstown, Salem, Upper Darby, Upper Merion, Upper Providence, Vineland & Woodbury areas.