New Jersey Gun Crime on the Rise

Recent reports indicate that New Jersey cities have been plagued by their highest rate of homicides in years. Although several pieces of gun control legislation have been passed and the state has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, a great deal of crime is attributable to gun violence.

In 2008, the NJ Attorney General’s Office ordered all New Jersey police department to forward gun-tracing requests to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The initiative, known as “NJ Trace,” also called for local police department to forward gun-tracing requests to the NJ State Police. The program has the benefit of allowing the federal and state departments to aggregate the local data from the gun traces in efforts to locate routes for gun trafficking.

In 2012, the ATF published a report releasing information about the geographical locations of gun use. The report encompassed data aggregated from nearly 3,600 guns and highlighted New Jersey cities as the “hot spots” for gun-related crime.

According to the report, the cities with the highest number of recovered guns include: Newark, Camden Jersey City, Paterson, Trenton, Atlantic City, Elizabeth, Vineland, Irvington, and East Orange. The report indicates that nearly 2,000 total guns were recovered in these cities. Another 1,600 guns were scattered throughout 341 other localities.

The most common form of gun recovered was a handgun. Approximately 2,900 of the total number of recovered guns were handguns. Interestingly, just 425 of the guns recovered originated from New Jersey, with the rest being imported from other states. The largest quantity of imported guns came from Pennsylvania and a collection of states along the “iron pipeline,” which includes North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, and Florida. Since these states have less stringent gun purchasing requirements, they often act as sources of guns for New Jersey and New York.

Illegal handgun charges in New Jersey are addressed by N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(b). According to the statute, illegal possession of a handgun can be classified as a second or third degree offense, depending on the type of gun involved. For example, illegal possession of a pistol is a third degree offense, punishable by a term of incarceration ranging from three to five years in NJ State Prison.

Possession of other types of handguns can lead to second degree charges, which are punishable by a term of incarceration ranging from five to 10 years. Additionally, violations of the statute trigger application of the Graves Act, which imposes a mandatory prison sentence as well as a period of parole ineligibility for those convicted.

Clearly, gun offenses are treated very seriously under NJ law. However, the penalties associated with such offenses have not successfully deterred homicides in the state.

For more information, read the article entitled “MAP: Where to N.J. Criminals Get Their Guns? Mostly, Not Here.”

To access the ATF Report, click the following link: New Jersey Firearms Trace Report.


If you’ve been charged with a gun crime in New Jersey, contact Morristown NJ criminal defense lawyer Alissa D. Hascup for a free consultation about your case.


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