The NJ firearm application does not consider convictions where you 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. This means that if you have a domestic violence conviction on your record, you might not be able to get a gun even if you expunge it.
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 and you might still be able to buy a firearm even if it’s not expunged. Ultimately, expunging your record is the best way to restore your gun rights.
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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 offense 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.
In other words, if you were convicted of a New Jersey domestic violence crime that involved violence, it’s likely that the offense matches the federal definition and you will not be able to buy a gun until the record is expunged.
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: Sarah 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: Albert 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: Maggie has a felony conviction for selling cocaine but it has been expunged. She can own a gun because her conviction was expunged