Yesterday, New York passed gun control legislation that is being characterized as the “toughest” in the nation.
The legislation is called the “New York Safe Act.” The law includes a tougher assault weapons ban that broadens the definition of what constitutes an assault weapon, and limits the capacity of magazines to 7 bullets (down from 10). The law also requires background checks of ammunition and gun buyers, even in private sales, imposes tougher penalties for illegal gun use, a one-state check on all firearms purchases, and programs to cut gun violence in high-crime neighborhoods.
New York is the first state to pass new gun control legislation since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. For more information, see the ABC News article entitled, “New York Passes Toughest Gun Control Law in the Nation.”
This characterization comes as somewhat of a surprise to residents of New Jersey, who have long thought that their gun control control laws were the among the strictest in the nation. In response to New York’s legislation, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie commented that New Jersey now has the “second toughest gun laws in America.” See the USA Today article entitled, “Where each state stands on gun-control legislation.”
NY’s “Safe Act” vs. NJ’s “Graves Act”
The prescribed penalties for gun-related crimes in New Jersey are codified under the “Graves Act,” N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6(c). The “Graves Act” requires the imposition of a minimum term of imprisonment and parole ineligibility for certain gun-related crimes. Until its amendment in 2008, the “Graves Act” only applied when a person was convicted of possessing or using a firearm while in the course of committing certain predicate crimes, or possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(a). However, following that amendment, the list of offenses that are now subject to the “Graves Act” was significantly expanded and now includes a number of possessory firearms crimes, including:
Unlawful Possession of a Machine Gun, Handgun, Rifle or Shotgun, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(a), (b) or (c)
Possession of a Sawed-Off Shotgun, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-3(b)
Possession of a Defaced Firearm, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-3(d)
Possession of a Firearm While in the Course of Committing a Drug Distribution or Possession With Intent to Distribute Offense, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4.1(a)
Possession of Certain Weapons by Persons Previously Convicted of Specified Offenses, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-7(a) or (b)(2)
The Manufacture, Transport, or Disposition of a Machine Gun, Sawed-Off Shotgun, or Assault Firearm, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-9(a), (b), or (g)
The Defacement of a Firearm, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-9(e)
Except as otherwise provided or negotiated, a person convicted of any of the foregoing crimesmust be sentenced to a term of imprisonment with a minimum term of parole ineligibility fixed at, or between, one-third to one-half of a sentence imposed, or three years, whichever is greater (or eighteen months in cases involving crimes of the Fourth Degree).
Additionally, a person convicted of a “Graves Act” offense who has previously been convicted of certain firearms offenses must be sentenced to a mandatory extended term of imprisonment, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:44-3(d). When that “repeat gun offender” statute applies, the sentence imposed must include a minimum term of parole ineligibility fixed at or between one-third to one-half of the extended term sentence, or five years, whichever is greater.
Moreover, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(i) provides that a person convicted of the unlawful possession of a machine gun, handgun, or assault firearm must be sentenced to parole ineligibility term of five years if the sentencing court finds that the organized criminal activity aggravating factor – N.J.S.A. 2C:44-1(a)(5) – applies.
NY vs. NJ – Definition of Assault Firearm
In New Jersey, an assault firearm is defined as follows:
1. The following firearms constitute assault 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 and 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 type; 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; G3SA type; Galil type Heckler and Koch HK91, HK93, HK94, MP5, PSG-1; Intratec TEC 9 and 22 semi-automatic firearms; M1 carbine type; M14S type; MAC 10, MAC 11, MAC 11-9mm carbine type firearms; PJK M-68 carbine type; Plainfield Machine Company Carbine; Ruger K-Mini-14/5F and Mini-14/5RF; SIG AMT, SIG 550SP, SIG 551SP, SIG PE-57 types; SKS with detachable magazine type; Spectre Auto carbine type; Springfield Armory BM59 and SAR-48 type; Sterling MK-6, MK-7 and SAR type; Steyr A.U.G. semi-automatic firearms; USAS 12 semi-automatic type shotgun; Uzi type semi-automatic firearms; Valmet M62, M71S, M76, or M78 type semi-automatic firearms; Weaver Arm Nighthawk
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 15 rounds.
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.
NY vs. NJ – Definition of High Capacity Ammunition Magazines
In New York, a high capacity magazine is now any magazine that holds more than 7 bullets. (It was lowered from 10.) This differs vastly from the definition in New Jersey, where a high capacity magazine is one that holds more than 15 bullets.
It will be interesting to see if this new law from our neighboring state has an effect on our legislators.