NJ man loses 76 guns over domestic dispute he wasn't a part of

A New Jersey man lost his rights to his entire gun collection in an appeals court ruling Wednesday, seized due to a protective order on his wife from her father.

The firearms were impounded from the owner, identified in court documents as C.L.H., in April 2013 after a domestic violence complaint brought by his wife’s 81-year-old father. The victim advised the judge that his daughter had a few long guns and a .22 caliber revolver in her home, which resulted in the judge directing the Cumberland County Sheriff to search the residence for weapons.

That search garnered four bows, a machete, four handguns and 72 long guns owned by C.L.H., who cooperated with authorities and surrendered both the weapons and his firearms purchaser identification card, required for ownership of guns in New Jersey, for safekeeping.

Although C.L.H had a clean record and was not a defendant in the domestic violence proceeding, which was later voluntarily dismissed in any event, what authorities found out about his collection led to trouble.

On examination by the State Police, five of the guns were considered under New Jersey law to be banned “assault weapons” which led to the forfeiture of those firearms and, since that disqualified him from further gun ownership under state law as argued the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office, the other 71 guns as well. A local court agreed and ordered the entire collection remain impounded pending appeal.

“Having concluded that the 2013 amnesty law cannot be applied to the circumstances here, we must consider whether the trial court could have properly returned the assault weapons to C.L.H., notwithstanding. We think the clear answer to that question is no,” wrote Judge Allison E. Accurso for the three-judge panel of the Appellate Division of the Superior Court in New Jersey in a 18-page ruling published Wednesday.

“Because the five assault firearms were seized pursuant to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act and cannot be returned to C.L.H. under the Domestic Violence Forfeiture Statute… he is expressly disqualified from obtaining a handgun purchase permit or firearms purchaser identification card under the Gun Control Law…and thus from regaining possession of his seventy-one other firearms and his firearms purchaser identification card held by the prosecutor,” wrote Accurso.

The semiautomatic rifles deemed assault weapons included a Bushmaster AR-15, a FN-FAL variant, an UZI carbine, an AK-47 variant, and a Winchester .22LR rifle. Due to the Bushmaster’s flash suppressor, a bayonet lug, a pistol grip and a telescoping stock, it was disqualified from ownership. The AK, imported in 2003 after New Jersey’s ban went into effect, was too new to be grandfathered and the .22LR was in violation of the law as its tubular magazine held more than 15 rounds of ammunition. The UZI and FAL are identified by name on the state’s 1997 assault weapon ban.

Although the five questioned rifles are now property of the state and will likely be destroyed, C.L.H. will be allowed to arrange the sale of his other 71 firearms.

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