Wilson & Johnson Bill Cracking Down on Unlawful Possession of a Firearm Receives Final Legislative Approval by Assembly

Bill Toughens Penalties for Unlawful Possession of Firearms and Allow Authorities to Impound Vehicles Found With Illegal Guns

(TRENTON) – The full Assembly on Thursday gave final legislative approval to legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gilbert “Whip” Wilson and Gordon Johnson to toughen the penalties for anyone convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm.

“We need to send the strongest message possible that gun crimes will not be tolerated,” said Wilson (D-Camden/Gloucester). “This bill protects the rights of law-abiding gun owners while going after criminals.”

The bill (S-2804/A-4152) would upgrade the unlawful possession of a firearm to a crime of the first degree in certain circumstances and amend various other penalty provisions for firearms convictions.

“Legal gun owners who adhere to the law would be further protected under this bill,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “Essentially, we’re saying, ‘We are taking back our streets and we’re not going to tolerate senseless gun violence in our communities anymore.’ “

Specifically, the bill would make it a crime of the first degree for a person to unlawfully possess a machine gun, handgun, rifle or shotgun, or an assault firearm following a conviction for a crime under the No Early Release Act.
Under current law violations of these provisions are either a second degree offense, in the case of machine guns, handguns and assault firearms, or a third degree offense, in the case of rifles and shotguns.

Additionally, the bill would increase the mandatory minimum period of parole ineligibility under the Graves Act from three years to 42 months. The Graves Act provides that a person convicted of unlawful possession of a machine gun, handgun, rifle or shotgun is subject to a mandatory minimum period of parole ineligibility, which is three years under current law. In addition, the bill adds the unlawful possession of an assault firearm to the list of crimes that are subject to Graves Act sentencing.

The bill passed both houses with a vote 73-2-0 in the Assembly. It now heads to the Governor for further consideration.