Proposed Singleton Law Would Expand Culpability for Firearms Trafficking

TRENTON, NJ — Legislation proposed by State Senator Troy Singleton (D-Burlington) would expand culpability requirements for firearms trafficking offenses in an effort to combat illegal gun sales is once again under consideration by the state legislature.

The measure was approved in a 3-2 vote along party lines on Thursday by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee. 

“Roughly 80 percent of gun crimes in New Jersey involve a weapon originally purchased out of state. Our common-sense gun laws are being undermined by the flow of out-of-state firearms by gun traffickers,” says Singleton. “By expanding culpability requirements, we can better combat the bad actors who enable the vast majority of gun crimes.”  

Under Senate Bill 1425 (S-1425), culpability requirements would be expanded for both violations of firearms transfers and the violation of regulatory provisions relating to firearms. Under current law for violations of firearm regulatory provisions, any person who knowingly violates such a provision is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree.

The bill provides that a person could recklessly violate these provisions even if not knowingly doing so, and still be guilty of the crime.

Under current law, a licensed gun dealer who sells a firearm to a person when the dealer knows the person intends to sell, transfer, or otherwise dispose of that firearm to a person who is disqualified from owning a firearm under state or federal law is guilty of a crime of the second degree and permanently disqualified from holding a retail license.

The Singleton legislation, however, would change state law to allow for licensed dealers to be charged with firearms trafficking offenses if they should have known the buyer intended to transfer the firearm to a disqualified person.

Singleton says this measure is another part of his efforts to combat the sale of illegal guns. 

He pointed out other measures that he authored, including the “Anti-Gun Trafficking Act of 2013” to target gun traffickers and enablers of gun violence. More recently, in 2023, he sponsored the “Real Accountability for Consequences of Unlawful Trafficking of Firearms Act”, which established strict liability criminal penalties for firearm trafficking that results in injury or death. 

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