By Christopher Berg and Sandy Malone
Trenton, NJ – After inadvertently banning New Jersey police officers from possessing their own duty weapons on Dec. 10, New Jersey lawmakers voted on Monday to give officers an exception to the standard capacity magazine ban.
However, Governor Phil Murphy wasn't available to sign the bill into law.
The New Jersey State Policemen's Benevolent Association released a statement that said that the governor is expected to sign the bill "possibly as soon as [Tuesday]."
UPDATE: He signed it Wednesday.
Under the bill, active law enforcement officers who are off duty can possess personally-owned magazines which hold up to 17 rounds of ammunition. Their department-issued magazines are fully exempt from any size restriction whether the officer is on or off duty.
However, 17 rounds is apparently too dangerous for retired officers, who will only be allowed to possess magazines which hold up to 15 bullets.
New Jersey will continue to not recognize retired officers' authority to carry firearms or hollow-point ammunition under the federal Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA).
The new law that limits gun magazines to 10 rounds initially went into effect on Dec. 10 without the legislature taking up the amendment to create an exception for law enforcement officers.
Modern firearms issued to patrol officers generally hold 12 or more rounds of ammunition.
That means that just about all law enforcement officers in New Jersey will be breaking the law if they carry their assigned duty weapons while off duty, including just being home with them, unless they live outside of the state or leave their magazines behind at work, rendering the weapons near-useless.
Bergen County Prosecutor Dennis Calo issued a memorandum to local police officials on Dec. 13 reminding everyone that the prohibition of the possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines also applied to off-duty law enforcement officers.
“The statute now provides that law enforcement officers are not permitted to possess large capacity ammunition magazines, i.e. magazines capable of holding more than ten (10) rounds of ammunition to be fed continuously into semi-automatic firearms, unless while on duty or traveling to or from an authorized place of duty,” the memo read.
“This statute applies to all law enforcement officers, including those subject to on-call status. Violation of this statute constitutes a fourth degree crime,” the memo continued. “There is legislation pending to amend the statute to permit law enforcement officers possession of large capacity magazines. We will keep you informed if and when the statute is amended.”
Under the new law, it’s technically legal for them to carry their gun home from work with them, but the minute they get home, they are breaking the law.
Bergen County may have been the only jurisdiction in the state to remind local law enforcement about the change in the law, and that’s confused a number of New Jersey residents.
“There’s a lot of misinformation out there about this, and a lot of people thinking the prosecutor put this out there on his own. But it’s a state law,” explained Elizabeth Rebein, the public information officer for the Bergen County prosecutor’s office.
Until the amendment bill is signed, law enforcement officers who take their duty weapons home are committing a felony.