Using a cliché such as “better safe than sorry” wouldn’t do the Washington Township Police Department justice for their efforts to preach firearm safety to their residents. Something about that phrase has more gravitas when describing firearms safety as opposed to coaxing a passenger in a car to wear their seat belt.
The WTPD hosted its first ever firearms safety seminar on Oct. 3. The event, which “sold out,” was free to residents over the age of 18 and was delivered by Officer Justin Walker, who is a 16-year veteran on the police force as well as a highly trained firearm instructor and self defense instructor.
Walker filled the presentation with an overview of firearm laws in New Jersey, information on how to apply for a firearms identification card, safety tips and open and honest discussion.
“These are things you want to be very comfortable with and have a working knowledge of if you’re going to own a firearm and have one in your home,” Walker said of New Jersey’s firearm laws.
His second slide tempered expectations of residents who were hoping to debate the second amendment, discuss tactics and ask “What if” questions regarding use of force scenarios; Walker made it clear the presentation would not touch on those items.
The first bit of information dispersed to the audience was New Jersey firearms statutes, specifically 2C:3-4 which covers use of force and self protection. Walker didn’t dive into too deep of detail on this, however, because every situation is different. He just wanted the audience to know which statutes to study up on.
Another statute referenced was 2C:58-3, which covers who can and cannot obtain a firearm and a firearms identification card. Anyone looking to purchase a gun must have a firearms ID card; the application for said ID can be found on the New Jersey State Police website at njsp.org/firearms/forms.shtml. A person must be at least 18 to apply for a firearms ID card; at this age, said person can purchase long arms, like a rifle or shotgun, only. At the age of 21 a person can apply for a firearms permit to purchase a handgun. If the application for the firearms ID is approved, the resident would pick up the card at his or her local police station where he or she will be finger printed for identification purposes. During the application process, background checks are completed, too. This process totals approximately 30 days and a firearms ID card does not expire. It will need to be updated if a person changes their address, though.
When purchasing a firearm, two forms of identification will be required, one being a driver’s license, the other being a firearms ID card. It was stressed at the seminar that the names match – if there’s a “Jr.” on your license, it should say “Jr.” on your firearms ID card. In the state of New Jersey, a background check is performed by the firearms dealer every time a gun is purchased in addition to the one done by the police during the permit process.
Another aspect the seminar touched on is transporting firearms. The New Jersey statute says firearms shall be kept unloaded and contained in a closed, fastened box like a gun case in the trunk or backseat of an automobile. Ammunition should be kept secured in a separate case from the firearms. When transporting firearms and ammunition, the trip could include deviations that are “reasonably necessary under circumstances.” Walker gave his interpretation of that statement.
“I would imagine if you’re a law-abiding citizen and you stop off at a diner on the way back from the range and a police officer finds out you have a gun in your trunk, I think that’s reasonable, but that’s a question people have,” he said.
It’s worth noting, however, this statute is open to interpretation. What one officer determines is “reasonably necessary” could be completely different from what another officer thinks. In order to be safe and most compliant with the law, it would make sense to go transport firearms with no deviations – go from point A to point B then from B to A.
The next aspect of the seminar saw Walker break down different types of firearms such as the difference between a semi-automatic firearms and a fully automatic firearm. Walker broke it down to its simplest form.
“Every time you pull the trigger it goes ‘bang,'” he said of semi-automatic firearms.
This is compared to a fully automatic firearms which, whenever the trigger is squeezed, it will fire until the operator either lets go of the trigger or runs out of ammunition, whichever occurs first.
Toward the end of the seminar, Walker discussed the cardinal rules of firearm safety. These are the easiest ways to prevent accidental discharges.
The first rule is to treat every firearm as though it’s loaded. Second, keep your finger off the trigger until you’re prepared to fire. Third, always be sure of your target and what’s beyond it. Walker added it’s best to know what’s between you and your target as well. The fourth and final cardinal rule is to never point a firearm at anything you don’t intend to kill or destroy.
This was followed by a question and answer period before the session concluded, and residents were free to pick up firearms ID applications as well as gun locks for safe keeping at home.
For more information, contact the WTPD at (856) 256-1212.