by Christopher Berg and Sandy Malone
Trenton, NJ - After the state of New Jersey banned active police officers from possessing their duty weapons while off duty starting last Monday, the ban is expected to be "fixed" this upcoming Monday.
However, the state would like to remind officers that they don't recognize the provisions of the federal Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA) which allows retired New Jersey officers to carry their weapons or hollow point ammunition.
According to the Attorney General's Office, LEOSA only applies to active and retired police officers who carry their firearms in interstate commerce. If a retired New Jersey officer remains in the state of New Jersey, they aren't engaging in interstate commerce, according to the AG's office, so New Jersey won't recognize the federal law.
LEOSA was “designed to protect officers and their families from vindictive criminals, and to allow thousands of equipped, trained and certified law enforcement officers, whether on-duty, off-duty or retired, to carry concealed firearms in situations where they can respond immediately to a crime across state and other jurisdictional lines.”
The purpose of the law was to pre-empt states from restricting the type of ammunition that officers could carry off duty, and allow them to carry their weapons in any state without running afoul of any state laws.
Because the state refuses to recognize LEOSA's application to retired New Jersey officers who remain in the state, the Attorney General says that there are no circumstances where it's legal for them to possess hollow point ammunition.
If a retired officer would like to carry a concealed weapon, they must get permission from the New Jersey State Police Superintendent to carry their weapon, according to New Jersey state law.
The new law that limits gun magazines to 10 rounds also 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.
Blue Lives Matter asked how officers with take-home vehicles or who were required to be on duty when they left their homes were supposed to have their duty weapons, the prosecutor’s office acknowledged a problem.
“There seems to be a conflict in the law in that regard,” Rebein said.
But she pointed out that for now, the new law has to be enforced and that’s why the reminder was sent.
“This is not something that is coming from the prosecutor. This is something the legislature passed that went into effect on December 10th,” Rebein explained.
The amendment which allows police officers to possess larger magazines is expected to be signed on Monday, but that leaves officers vulnerable to breaking the law for a week.
After the amendment is signed, retired law enforcement officers will be able to carry up to 15 rounds of non-hollow point ammunition if they have permission from the New Jersey State Police Superintendent to carry their weapons.