Skip to Main Content
Last updated .

New Jersey has some of the nation’s strongest laws to disarm hate.

Access to Guns for People Convicted of Hate Crimes in New Jersey
Violence with Severe Bodily InjuryViolence with Bodily InjuryOther Crimes Involving Intentional Use of ForceThreats with Deadly Weapons
Other Credible Threats to Physical Safety
u003cstrongu003eFederal Lawu003c/strongu003eVery limited or no accessVery limited or no accessVery limited or no accessVery limited or no access
Very limited or no access
u003cstrongu003eState Lawu003c/strongu003eVery limited or no accessVery limited or no accessVery limited or no accessVery limited or no access
Very limited or no access

New Jersey makes it a crime (called “bias intimidation”) to commit specified offenses, including most violent crimes,1 with the purpose of intimidating a group or individual because of their race, color, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, or ethnicity.2Under this law, bias intimidation crimes are treated, at a minimum, as “crimes of the fourth degree,” punishable by up to 18 months in prison.3 (New Jersey generally does not classify offenses as “felonies” or “misdemeanors,” but crimes that are punishable by more than one year under New Jersey law are generally considered the equivalent of felonies).4

New Jersey is one of the few states that expressly prohibits people from accessing firearms based on a hate crime conviction: those convicted of bias intimidation or similar crimes in other jurisdictions are generally prohibited from accessing guns.5 Nearly all violent hate crime conduct may be charged under New Jersey’s bias intimidation statute, including assault, reckless endangering, criminal (“terroristic”) threats, stalking, and violent harassment.6

Because New Jersey makes bias intimidation punishable by more than one year in prison in all cases, people convicted of bias intimidation are also subject to federal law’s firearm restrictions as well.7


Our experts can speak to the full spectrum of gun violence prevention issues. Have a question? Email us at

  1. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:16-1. The underlying crimes include (among others) homicide, murder, manslaughter, assault, reckless endangering, terroristic threats, stalking, kidnapping, arson, causing or risking widespread injury or damage, criminal mischief, and criminal trespass.[]
  2. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:16-1(a)(1)-(2). Bias intimidation may also occur if the perpetrator knows that their underlying criminal conduct would cause an individual or group of individuals to be intimidated because of protected characteristics. A third prong of this statute, however, was ruled unconstitutionally vague by state courts in 2015. State v. Pomianek, 110 A.3d 841 (N.J. 2015).[]
  3. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:16-1(c); N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:43-6.[]
  4. See, e.g., In re Rettschlag, No. A-5557-06T3, 2008 WL 1787466, at *1 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. Apr. 22, 2008) (“Offenses that are punishable by imprisonment for more than one year are considered common law felonies.”); Zaborowski v. New Jersey Div. of State Police, No. A-4760-05T1, 2007 WL 935603, at *2 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. Mar. 30, 2007) (“It is well established that our fourth-degree crimes, which are punishable in State prison for a term of up to eighteen months, are equivalent to common law felonies.”); Kaplowitz by Kaplowitz v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 201 N.J. Super. 593, 598 (Law. Div. 1985) (explaining that the New Jersey Supreme Court “concluded in State v. Doyle, 42 N.J. 334, 349 (1964), that only offenses that are punishable by more than one year in state prison should be treated as common law felonies. Hence, the term ‘felony’ may embrace fourth degree crimes, which are punishable by imprisonment of as much as 18 months . . . but it would not include disorderly persons offenses, for which the maximum term of imprisonment is 6 months.”).[]
  5. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:39-7.[]
  6. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:16-1(a).[]
  7. Federal law generally prohibits people from accessing firearms if they have been convicted of a felony punishable by over one year in prison, or a state law misdemeanor punishable by more than two years. 18 U.S.C. § 922 (g)(1); 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(20)(B).[]