Singleton, Greenstein Bill to Increase Accountability for Illegal Firearm Sales Advances

TRENTON – In an effort to combat illegal gun sales, the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee advanced legislation sponsored by Senators Troy Singleton and Linda Greenstein that would expand culpability requirements for firearms trafficking offenses and violations of regulatory provisions relating to firearms.

Combatting the sale of illegal guns has been a top priority for Senator Singleton during his time in the legislature. The Senator was the prime sponsor of the “Anti-Gun Trafficking Act of 2013” to target gun traffickers and enablers of gun violence. More recently, in 2023, he was the prime sponsor of 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. This bill is a continuation of his record of commitment to tackling gun crime and the illegal sale of firearms.

“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,” said Senator Singleton (D-Burlington). “By expanding culpability requirements, we can better combat the bad actors who enable the vast majority of gun crimes.”

The bill, S-1425, would expand culpability requirements 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.

“Out of state guns pose a significant threat to public safety, and make up the vast majority of the guns that criminals use here in New Jersey,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex), Chair of the Law and Public Safety Committee. “The expansion of culpability requirements will help prosecutors when actors plead ignorance of our state’s laws, or when they attempt to evade them by relying on retailers that don’t comply with state laws.”

For firearms trafficking offenses, current law provides that a licensed 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. Under the bill, a licensed dealer could still be charged with the offense if they should have known the buyer intended to transfer the firearm to a disqualified person.

The bill was advanced in a 3-2 vote.