Locking Up Guns in NJ — Not the Law, But the ‘Right Thing to Do’
In New Jersey, every time someone buys a firearm, the purchaser is required to be given a trigger or cable lock, gun box or other secure container.
But whether they use the lock to secure the firearm is left up to the owner.
Those are the parameters of safe storage laws in NJ in 2020, though it does go a step further for child access prevention.
It's illegal in New Jersey to leave a gun accessible for any unauthorized people or minors to use — minors in this case means children younger than 16. The Townsquare News Network is seeking more information on whether family members will be charged after a 4-year-old got hold of a gun this weekend and fatally shot himself in Pemberton Township; there were no charges as of Saturday.
A purchaser must sign an affidavit with any firearm purchase, which states the purchaser was told leaving a gun accessible for such use is punishable by "a class three felony, which is typically three to five years in jail," according to Anthony Colandro, owner of Gun for Hire at the Woodland Park range.
Colandro said no matter if the firearm is unloaded or has a lock on it, if a child got his or her hands on the gun, that can still be considered a felony for the owner.
As a lifetime member of the NRA and certified firearm instructor, Colandro said he know guns aren't for everyone, but that should not stop any household from being educated about gun safety.
“Today we have a problem, where there’s a blurred line between fantasy and reality,” Colandro said, noting popular shooter-point of view video games and movies with sophisticated special effects might mislead children to underestimate the power and finality of handling a real weapon.
The Gun for Hire website bills itself as the “World’s Only Family Destination Gun Range,” with opportunities for children 8 and older to shoot long guns and take rifle or shotgun courses, when accompanied by an adult 21 or older. Chaperoned children 13 and older are able to shoot pistols and take pistol, rife or shotgun courses.
Through the Gun for Hire academy, Colandro's staff offers seminars across the state, often for free, in order to teach the basics of firearm safety and show kids the very real ramifications of handling a gun.
Colandro said by taking the "mystery out of firearms," offering to show what one does in a controlled, safe environment, it reduces the chance that a child or minor will “jump” at the chance to handle one in an un-secure place, such as a relative or friend's house and instead go tell an adult.
He said basic child safety tips are featured in an NRA program called Eddie Eagle — "Stop, Don't Touch, Leave the Area and Tell an Adult."
In the Gun for Hire courses geared toward youth, they also go over the three basic firearm safety rules — "Always assume a gun is loaded, keep your finger off the trigger, and do not point it at anything you don’t intend to destroy."
The in-house program also ends with participants shooting a .22 rifle - which Colandro said "has the recoil of a BB gun."
Colandro compares securing firearms to locking the doors to a vehicle or home, saying "It's just the right thing to do."
He said an average "firearm costs $700 dollars, and an average gun safe, to hold one or two firearms, is $100. He said that should be "part and parcel when you buy a gun, you should also buy a device to make it safe."
New Jersey is among 11 states with laws concerning firearm locking devices, while Massachusetts is the only state that generally requires that all firearms be stored with a lock in-place, according to the Giffords Law Center.
New Jersey law also is similar to federal law, in requiring locking devices to accompany certain guns manufactured, sold, or transferred.
New York, Connecticut, and California have requirements that firearms be stored with a lock in place in certain situations involving prohibited household members.
When it comes to child access prevention, the Giffords Law Center said NJ is among 16 states and the District of Columbia with laws that make gun owners criminally liable for "negligently storing" firearms where minors could or do gain access to them.