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Domestic Violence and Gun Ownership

June 26, 2015 | Posted In Criminal Law - Criminal Law |

A recent ruling from the New Jersey Appellate Court regarding domestic violence claims and gun ownership may block potential purchasers from receiving permits if they have any history of domestic violence claims or accusations in their background.

Looking at the ruling, the state’s Gun Control Law, N.J.S.A. 2C: 58-39 (c)(5), allows sellers to deny firearms purchaser identification cards and permits to anyone who poses a potential threat to “public health, safety, and welfare.” Even if a person has never been charged with domestic violence, a mere accusation is enough to include him or her in this category, according to the appellate court judges.

The court’s ruling stems from a 2013 case in which the Aberdeen police chief and a Monmouth County Superior Court judge rejected the gun permit application of a New Jersey man listed in court documents as Z.L. Z.L. had applied to purchase a handgun and keep it in his house, but his application was denied after a background check uncovered a domestic violence claim from his wife in 1998.

Additionally, further research showed that police had been called to Z.L.’s home five times from 2003 to 2011 on domestic dispute reports. Z.L. was acquitted of the 1998 domestic violence charges, but the accusation itself prevented him from purchasing a gun.

Second Amendment Protections
The 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution grants an individual’s right to own a handgun and keep it in his or her home. However, this right can be taken away in cases where an individual has a history of gun violence or prior convictions that would make him or her a menace to society with a gun permit. For this reason, gun sales are regulated and potential buyers have to undergo a background check before obtaining their permits and purchasing their firearms.

In Z.L.’s case, the detective assigned to look into his background found the domestic violence arrest, along with the other incidents. These events were used to establish that Z.L. had a “past history of domestic violence” that may be a threat to public safety. The police chief denied his application and when Z.L. appealed, the Superior Court upheld that decision.

In the Appellate Court ruling, Judge John Kennedy said that “the presence of a firearm in such a household enhances the potential for such a [violent] reaction to become lethal.”

He and the other two judges agreed with the original determination and upheld the denial, using the 2008 Appellate Division ruling in In re Osworth, in which the judges said that the Gun Control law should “relate to cases of individual unfitness, where, though not dealt with in the specific statutory enumerations, the issuance of the permit…would nonetheless be contrary to the public interest.”

That said, although a domestic violence accusation is not specifically listed as a reason for denial, the overall sense of violent tendencies is enough to refuse a potential gun owner.

At Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, we represent anyone who has been accused of domestic violence or any other crime. To discuss your case, contact a New Jersey criminal lawyer at HCK for a consultation today.

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