Restoration of Gun Rights
The NJ firearm application does not consider convictions where your record has been expunged, but, pursuant to federal law, does limit gun rights for those convicted of domestic violence or subject to a domestic violence related court order. However, New Jersey defines domestic violence more broadly than federal law. Therefore, a domestic violence conviction under New Jersey law may not trigger the federal ban.
Federal law prohibits anyone who has been convicted of a felony from owning a gun. Federal law also prohibits anyone who has been convicted in any court of any domestic violence offenses from owning a gun. The federal definition of domestic violence includes any use or attempted use of force, and any use or threatened use of a deadly weapon. However, there is an exception that restores firearm rights to those who have had their records expunged. This exception applies automatically unless the state that convicted them has expressly blocked such a restoration of firearm rights.
New Jersey Law
New Jersey’s definition of domestic violence is broader than the federal one, which only relates to violence. In addition to actions related to violence (homicide, assault, terroristic threats, kidnapping, criminal restraint, false imprisonment, sexual assault, and criminal sexual contact), New Jersey’s definition of domestic violence includes actions not directly related to violence (lewdness, criminal mischief, burglary, criminal trespass, harassment, and stalking). A conviction under the New Jersey domestic violence statute only triggers the federal firearm ban if the offense matches the federal definition of domestic violence.
New Jersey law does not have any provision that blocks the restoration of gun rights to those who have had their records expunged, regardless of whether the conviction was for a violent crime. So, an expunged felony conviction or an expunged domestic violence conviction will not prevent one from owning a gun in New Jersey, and it is not necessary to disclose such convictions on a firearm application.
- Example 1: Lindsey has a felony conviction for theft in New Jersey, which has been expunged. She also has a restraining order against her from her ex- husband for threatening him. She may not own a gun because of the restraining order.
- Example 2: Robert has a misdemeanor conviction for lewdness under New Jersey’s domestic violence law that has not been expunged. He can own a gun because his conviction does not meet the federal definition, which requires actual violence.
- Example 3: Laurie has a felony conviction for selling cocaine but it has been expunged. She can own a gun because her conviction was expunged.