Did a NJ Prosecutor’s office admit to gun buyback’s illegality?

AP Photo/Don Thompson

Feel good, do nothing, so-called “gun buybacks”, more appropriately attributed as compensated confiscations by Cam, just don’t get old. They don’t get old because the programs fit the description of that insane person doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. The spirit of a compensated confiscation may seem altruistic, but the big picture clearly prints them as what they are…a way and means to help in disarming America. They don’t lower crime and it’s been proven to actually acutely raise the amount of crime in a given area. Another New Jersey amnesty program was announced a couple of weeks ago, and let’s see what they’re all about.

Morris County Announces Gun Buy Back for May
Published on May 03, 2022
Guns at buy back program
Cash Exchanges, No Questions Asked

Two “Guns for Cash” events are scheduled to be held in Morris County to reduce the number of unwanted and unsecured guns circulating in the community.

The two events, organized by several agencies as the Morris County Gun Buy Back Amnesty Program, will be held over two days, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on:

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Budd Lake Fire Department
378 Route 46
Budd Lake, NJ 07828

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Parsippany Police Athletic League (PAL) Building
33 Baldwin Road
Parsippany, NJ 07054

The program was announced in a joint press release by Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin, Morris County Prosecutor Robert J. Carroll, Morris County Sheriff James Gannon, Chief of Detectives Christoph K. Kimker of the prosecutor’s office, Mount Olive Police Chief Stephen Beecher, Parsippany-Troy Hills Police Chief Richard Pantina, the Morris County Board of Commissioners, and Morris County Crimestoppers.

New Jersey residents are invited to turn in firearms with “no questions asked,” and will receive as much as $300 per weapon for up to three guns.

The thing about these so-called buyback programs is that there are no provisions in New Jersey law that really allows for them to legally occur. This particular buyback is being championed by the acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin, along with several entities in Morris County. In asking people to bring their unwanted firearms to the two locations, everyone mentioned in the press release is responsible for asking people to break New Jersey Law. The possession and transportation laws in New Jersey are so strict, that without the proper permits, which in the case of a handgun a permit to carry would be required, people would not be under the narrow exemptions. Hoping to be doing the right thing (or disposing of evidence), participants would be in unlawful possession of a firearm.

This is kind of a rinse and repeat. The last bunch of pieces I’ve churned out on New Jersey buybacks, I’ve asked the same or similar questions of those hosting the event(s), including the Attorney General (AG). For this new acting AG, this was our first trip around the block on the topic together, however the office of the AG has been ignoring my correspondence since before last fall.

I reached out to the press contact at the Morris County Prosecutor’s office (Meghan Knab at [email protected]), as well as the NJ AG, and everyone mentioned in the release that I could attempt to reach. My query was as follows:

From: John Petrolino
To: Knab, Meghan G. <[email protected]
Sent: Friday, May 6, 2022
Subject: Query on May 14th and 15th Buyback Program

Attention:

I’m writing because I would like to inquire about the upcoming “Gun Buybacks” scheduled for Saturday, May 14, 2022 and Sunday, May 15, 2022. I’m a freelance journalist who’s work primarily appears on bearingarms.com and ammoland.com. I had a few questions about the buyback that I’m hoping  you could address for use in an article.

1. New Jersey’s firearm possession laws are very strict, as you know. Under 2C:39-5 Unlawful possession of weapons., we have the following laws:

“Any person who knowingly has in his possession any handgun, including any antique handgun, without first having obtained a permit to carry the same as provided in N.J.S.2C:58-4, is guilty of a crime of the third degree … Any person who knowingly has in his possession any rifle or shotgun without having first obtained a firearms purchaser identification card in accordance with the provisions of N.J.S.2C:58-3, is guilty of a crime of the third degree.”

Under the buyback program, what assurances do people have that they will not be arrested and prosecuted while transporting firearms to these locations? By asking people to bring firearms to the “safe locations” you’re telling people to break NJ law and commit a felony. As you’re aware the penalties are 3 – 5 minimum mandatory under the Graves act. Can you please show me in law where transportation would be allowed?

2. Again on possession, none of the “safe locations” outlined fall into the exemption of the law of where people may possess firearms. Where in NJ statute is is stated that people may take firearms to say a firehouse, one of the locations noted? I would like to see the exemptions in the law that will protect citizens from arrest and prosecution.

3. Who is taking possession of the firearms? Under New Jersey law, an FFL is supposed to be transferring all firearms. Can you please direct me to the statute in NJ’s law that allows for such programs to be legal?

Thank you kindly in advance for your reply. I look forward to hearing from you.

Warmest Regards,
John Petrolino

This fishing expedition yielded replies from two entities. Megan Knab from the Morris County Prosecutor’s office and a police Sergeant from Mount Olive Township Police (the Budd Lake Fire Department falls under the Mount Olive jurisdiction).

From the Mount Olive Police Department:

From: [Redacted]
To: John Petrolino
Sent: Friday, May 6, 2022, 11:31:14 AM CDT
Subject: Gun Buy Back Program

Good afternoon,

I have received your message you sent via the website.

The gun buy back program is being held by the Morris County Prosecutors office.  I am unable to answer your questions but perhaps they can help.

Their flyer lists Meghan Knab ([email protected]) or 973 829 8159 as the contact for more information.  Perhaps Meghan could assist you.

Thank you,
Sergeant [Name Redacted]
Mount Olive Twp Police
204 Flanders Drakestown Road
Budd Lake, NJ 07828
973 691 0900 x[Redacted]

I reached out for further clarification, which went unanswered:

Sergeant,

Thank you kindly for the reply. I wrote to this office because the Chief of Police in Mount Olive was mentioned as being part of the joint press release. Being part of the release, linked here:

https://www.morriscountynj.gov/Morris-County-News/Morris-County-Announces-Gun-Buy-Back-for-May

…I wanted his perspective on my query. Would the Chief be able to comment on my questions given his involvement with this program?

One of the locations is the Budd Lake Fire Department, which would be in your jurisdiction, correct? What memo or information is being distributed to officers in the jurisdiction concerning illegal firearm possession in relation to this program? Where in NJ statute is it written for such exemptions?

Thanks kindly for your help in these matters. Please advise if you are in need of the original questions.

Warmest Regards,
John Petrolino

Shocking/not shocking that I received no further reply. That’s okay, because the Prosecutor’s office did send me a great puffy reply that really did read like a whole separate press release. The following unsigned reply was sent from the address noted for press queries:

From: Knab, Meghan G. <[email protected]>
To: John Petrolino
Sent: Tuesday, May 10, 2022, 12:42:31 PM CDT
Subject: RE: Query on May 14th and 15th Buyback Program

Thank you for your patience.

The Morris County Prosecutor’s Office, as the Chief Law Enforcement Officer in the County, is providing our community a convenient and safe way to surrender unwanted firearms.  The goal of voluntary firearm surrender projects is to remove unwanted firearms from the community, thereby reducing the risk of injury, threat of harm, and accidental shootings from such weapons; reducing the number of firearms which could be used during the commission of crimes; and reducing crime, in general, by making weapons less available to potential criminals.

This program is being conducted in consultation with the State and is fully supported by the Office of the Attorney General.  Members of the public who avail themselves of this surrender program are assured amnesty from prosecution for possessory firearm crimes including as they transport the firearm to the surrender site on the day(s) of the advertised event. Firearms that are being voluntarily surrendered, consistent with N.J.S.A. 2C:39-6g, should be carried unloaded and contained in a closed and fastened case, gun box, or securely tied package, or locked in the trunk of the automobile being used for transport.

For many years, county prosecutor’s offices have conducted safe surrender programs where the public has been able to conveniently and safely dispose of a firearm without fear of prosecution. We anticipate that numerous members of the community will be able to safely dispose of firearms at the upcoming surrender on May 14 and 15, adding to the hundreds of firearms already successfully surrendered through similar programs in New Jersey. These statewide surrender programs are modeled on our safe surrender statute codified in N.J.S.A. 2C:39-12 and are planned and staffed by local and county law enforcement and prosecutors. We encourage the public to avail themselves of the Morris County Program next weekend.

I won’t overly bore you with an explanation, and further, I’m no attorney, but I do urge everyone interested to read the two statutes that were cited, in particular the second of the following: N.J.S.A. 2C:39-6g and N.J.S.A. 2C:39-12. I address this in my reply back to the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office:

From: John Petrolino
To: Knab, Meghan G. <[email protected]>
Sent: Tuesday, May 10, 2022
Subject: Re: Query on May 14th and 15th Buyback Program

Thanks kindly for your reply. Okay just to be clear, the statute you quoted N.J.S.A. 2C:39-12 requires the following: “if after giving written notice of his intention to do so”, meaning a person seeking to avail themselves of an unwanted firearm is supposed to write their police chief prior to surrendering the firearm, and set up a date and time with the authority.

Also noted the “instrument or substance in question to the superintendent or to the chief of police in the municipality in which he resides“.

Is this program only available to residents of the jurisdictions where the buybacks are taking place? This law indicates that individuals must take the firearms to their superintendent/chief in their own municipality. There is nothing in your literature stating that people need to first give written notice to surrender the firearm – a requirement prior to transporting the firearm to the actual superintendent or to the chief of police.

The law clearly outlines the requirements that must be fulfilled in order for an individual to not be subject to prosecution (written notice, date and time, and their municipality). Can you please clarify the legality of this for me?

Warmest Regards,
John Petrolino

The reply I expected to receive can best be summed up by Willy Wonka; “You get nothing! You lose! Good day, sir!” However, I did get another response from the Prosecutor’s office. They quite literally stuck to their guns:

From: Knab, Meghan G. <[email protected]>
To: John Petrolino
Sent: Wednesday, May 11, 2022, 10:11:51 AM EDT
Subject: RE: Query on May 14th and 15th Buyback Program

The Morris County Prosecutor’s Office—the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the County, and the Attorney General’s Office—the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the State, have authorized this event. Any resident may participate, regardless of their jurisdiction, and no one will be charged for a possessory firearm offense for transporting a firearm to the safe surrender location that intends to surrender a firearm. We stand by this assurance, particularly in light of the fact that we have given notice of the details of the voluntary firearm surrender event to all local police departments, and any charge by a police officer in the county would first need to be authorized by the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office. Countywide gun safe surrender events have been conducted by both the Attorney General and County Prosecutor’s Offices for years where the community has been able to safely surrender unwanted firearms without fear of prosecution.

The legality/illegality of these programs in New Jersey is something I’ve been trying to bring to light as much as possible. In doing so, an internet troll once who happens to be a former police officer, we’ll call him Tom, asked me “What difference does it make if they’re breaking the law as long as we’re getting guns off the street?” That question was posed to me in a New Jersey pro gun online social media page. That’s the mentality we’re dealing with in the Garden State. A population that has people who are complicit in having a caste system, where it’s okay for the ruling class to break the law or advocate for it, as long as it fits their needs. God forbid you’re a law abiding citizen that accidentally runs afoul of the law, they’ll crucify you.

In their first email reply to me did the Morris County Prosecutor’s office, in an attempt to explain away where they’re granted the alleged authority to hold these amnesty programs, unwittingly admit they’re not following the law? The statute quoted does, as I’ve pointed out, require the person to notify whom they’re surrendering any firearm to in writing, that they intend to do so. In essence they need to set up an appointment. We’re being told essentially “It’s okay. The AG says it’s all good man.”  

The program is advertised as “no questions asked,” and  that the “program will accept firearms from all persons including juveniles without requiring the disclosure of names or other personal information.” That does not comport with the requirements to notify, does it?

The law also makes note that the exchange is to occur in one’s own jurisdiction, meaning identification would be required to be provided by every individual in order to confirm residency. We’re being told that people from any jurisdiction are welcome.

And, there’s no FFL involved to take possession of the firearms, since they’re clearly not within the exemptions of the amnesty law.

Define executive overreach: “The Morris County Prosecutor’s Office—the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the County, and the Attorney General’s Office—the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the State, have authorized this event.” – Under what authority did they authorize the event?

I do salute the press representative from the Morris County Prosecutor’s office for parleying with me. She’s the first person to actually put any of this in writing in reply to me, and I’ve reached out to a lot of officials on this topic. In my email reply back I thanked her for having a spine. Unlike AG’s Bruck and Platkin, who’s press office refuse to respond to any of my correspondence, this individual stepped up to the plate to swing. That’s a little lesson on integrity former temporary and current temporary AGs. Integrity gentlemen.

The fact of the matter is the law in New Jersey is so convoluted and sloppy these jackals in charge can’t even hold a compensated confiscation program that comports with their own awful unconstitutional laws. The relevance here is the law abiding gun owner is treated like a criminal in the Garden State just for trying to exercise a constitutional right, and the ruling class can get away with whatever they want. This exchange also illustrates the hubris nature of those involved in these programs, notably the Office of the Attorney General. This acting AG seems to be just as big of a lap dog to Governor Phil Murphy as the last one. I get that I’m just a flea to them, but a reply would be appreciated. I’ll happily have an on the record dialogue with AG Platkin, or Murphy for that matter. My advice to those that have firearms they don’t want, contact an FFL and learn about your options to sell them. You’ll make more money and you won’t be breaking the law.