New Jersey Lawmakers Propose Raising Age to Buy Rifles, Shotguns

Semi-automatic rifles are seen for sale in a gun shop in Las Vegas, Nevada on Oct. 4, 2017.

Semi-automatic rifles. ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

New Jerseyans under the age of 21 would be barred from buying a rifle or shotgun under a new bill introduced by Democratic lawmakers.

The bill (A-3815) would raise the minimum age to get a permit to purchase the weapons from 18 to 21. That would be in line with the state’s law regarding handguns, which can’t be sold to anyone under the age of 21.

The bill is sponsored by Assemblymen Roy Freiman (D-Somerset) and Andrew Zwicker (D-Mercer).

“This is about preventing gun violence,” Freiman said in a statement. “There is no easy solution to the proliferation of gun violence in this country, but there are measures we can take to help keep people safe. Bringing the rules on rifles and shotguns in line with the rules on handguns can help. If you have to be 21 to buy a handgun, the same standard should apply to rifles and shotguns.”

The bill is the latest gun control measure to be proposed by Democrats in the wake of the February school shooting in Parkland, Florida. The state Assembly passed a six-bill gun control package in March to further toughen New Jersey’s strict gun laws, and the Senate is expected to vote on those bills in June. Gov. Phil Murphy has vowed to sign them all.

The new legislation, announced Monday, would allow people under the age of 21 to possess a handgun, shotgun or rifle under the following circumstances:

  • If they’re in the presence or under the supervision of a parent, legal guardian or someone who holds a handgun permit or firearms purchaser ID;
  • If they’re an active duty or honorably discharged military and law enforcement member;
  • For competition, target practice, instruction and training;
  • For hunting during the designated hunting season, if they possesses a valid hunting license;
  • If they’re between the ages of 18 and 21 and have already obtained a firearms purchaser ID card before to the bill’s effective date.

“We want to make it harder for people with bad intentions from getting their hands on these weapons, but we also want to strike the right balance,” Zwicker said in a statement. “We realize that some young people use these weapons for lawful hunting or as part of their work. This bill’s careful exemptions recognize those pragmatic realities, while also limiting access to weapons for people who might want to use them to hurt others.”

Scott Bach, a New Jersey gun rights advocate, said criminals would ignore the age requirement if it became law, and it would make law-abiding citizens less safe.

“The 18-year-old female living alone can’t defend herself,” said Bach, the executive director of Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs. “That person is left a victim by this legislation. It doesn’t make anyone safer because criminals and madmen won’t follow it, and it makes the people who do follow it less safe.”

The bill’s sponsors cited the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, which found that 18 to 20 year olds commit gun homicides at a rate nearly four times more than adults 21 and older.

New Jersey Lawmakers Propose Raising Age to Buy Rifles, Shotguns