NJ2AS has received a response from the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office regarding our formal complaint that the Jackson Township Police Department forces firearms permit applicants to undergo fingerprinting again if they have not been fingerprinted in the previous two years. The short version of the response is that the act is wrong and unnecessary, but not illegal. You can listen to the response by clicking on the video:
Although we respect the County Prosecutor’s determination, it goes without saying that we are very disappointed with the underwhelming content of the investigation and that the Prosecutor’s office did not bother to respond in writing. Their response came in the form of a voicemail by a Detective from their office. It appears that the entire investigation consisted of a phone call to the New Jersey State Police Firearms Investigation Unit to ask if the practice was illegal. This seems a bit upside down to us – a prosecutor asking the police if something is legal or not.
What we expected was that they would analyze the law, the regulations and the relevant guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and make their own determination. We can understand interviewing the State Police as part of a broader investigation, but, from the voice mail, it appears that this is all they did, and they stopped as soon as the representative of the NJSP Firearms Investigation Unit provided his opinion that the practice is allowed by law. Who they spoke to and whether or not that person was an attorney or is authorized to make such a determination is not known.
NJ2AS vehemently disagrees with this assessment. NJ law, under 2C:58-3f, states in part:
There shall be no conditions or requirements added to the form or content of the application, or required by the licensing authority for the issuance of a permit or identification card, other than those that are specifically set forth in this chapter.
NJ law also states, under 2C:39-10a(1):
Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (2) and paragraph (4) of this subsection, any person who knowingly violates the regulatory provisions relating to manufacturing or wholesaling of firearms N.J.S.2C:58-1, retailing of firearms N.J.S.2C:58-2, permits to purchase certain firearms N.J.S.2C:58-3, permits to carry certain firearms N.J.S.2C:58-4, licenses to procure machine guns or assault firearms N.J.S.2C:58-5, or incendiary or tracer ammunition N.J.S.2C:58-10, except acts which are punishable under section N.J.S.2C:58-5 or section N.J.S.2C:58-2, is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree.
New Jersey Statutes Annotated 2C:58-3f, Administrative Code 13:54-1.4 and the language in the NJSP Firearms Applicant Investigation Guide all use the same language… “…need not be fingerprinted again.” Any reasonable person, if asked what “need not” means, would tell you that it means “not a requirement.” Yet, here we have a Chief of Police who has made it a requirement. It is not the fingerprinting itself that was the subject of NJ2AS’ complaint. Fingerprinting is a requirement under NJ law. Our complaint is that the Jackson Township Chief of Police made getting fingerprinted again a requirement when it is clearly not a requirement. Therefore, he added a requirement, which is prohibited by law, identified as not required by the Administrative Code and by SOP, and is prohibited by an Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive.
Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive 2016-4:
- a. “…permit applications… should be approved as expeditiously as practicable so that the applicants promptly can exercise their lawful rights…”
- b. “…all police agencies must enforce State firearms statutes and regulations objectively and uniformly.”
- c. “Police agencies serving in the capacity of firearms licensing authorities are prohibited from applying different policies and standards reflecting local or personal views…”
It is here that the importance of the question “Why?” manifests itself. Why did the Police Chief institute this policy? What was his objective? This is relevant, because it is an indisputable fact that there is no utility in it. An applicant’s fingerprints are kept in a database at the State Bureau of Investigation. Merely filling out Form SBI 212A (manual or electronic) initiates the subsequent fingerprint check using the fingerprints that are on file. There is no benefit to requiring that the applicant spend the additional time and money to go through the process again. Time and money which many cannot afford to lose, especially those who are most vulnerable. What we had hoped, was that the County Prosecutor would have conducted a thorough investigation to determine Chief’s intent as there are only two possibilities:
1. The Jackson Township Chief of Police was trying to make it more expensive, more cumbersome and more time consuming for the average person to apply for a firearms permit in hopes that it would delay the permit and/or deter the person from applying.
2. The Jackson Township Chief of Police doesn’t understand how fingerprinting works in the State of NJ.
Both are troubling.
As a result of our reporting of this issue, NJ2AS has received additional complaints about Jackson Township’s processing of firearms permit applications. Most notable is the amount of time it takes to complete the task, which we have heard can take as long as nine months. Even more baffling and troubling was the response we received from Chief Kunz
Chief Kuntz reached out to us with the following messages:
It seems as though Chief Kuntz may have a problem with the First Amendment as well as the Second. But, to be fair and objective, we responded to his message by giving him an opportunity to contribute to the content of this follow-up article.
NJ2AS has a constitutionally protected right to redress its grievances with government (in this case, in the form of a complaint) as well as to tell our story, and the story of our members and supporters who have suffered as a result of Chief Kunz’s policy, to the public.
Chief Kuntz’s comments to us are made in his official capacity. Whereas, NJ2AS has a focused interest in firearms related policy in NJ and feels confident in its opinions, we do not have a focused interest in which conduct from a government official may be a violation of policy and/or may be a civil violation, or a criminal violation regarding the above messages. We are, however, very uncomfortable with a law enforcement officer, who is the subject of a valid complaint, attempting to identify the complainants and dissuade NJ2AS and its members and supporters from exercising its First and Second Amendment rights. This can be viewed as an attempt to intimidate complainants.
We have responded to the Ocean County Prosector and sent a formal response requesting details of the investigation and to provide a written response to how our complaint. We also included the new information regarding Chief Kunz’s professional conduct and asked that the Ocean County Prosecutor review that as well. Please click here to read our detailed response to the Ocean County Prosecutor.
NJ2AS would like to thank the many NJ municipalities that follow the law, treat firearms permit applicants with respect and handle those applications with the care and sense of urgency that they are due. Chief Kuntz, on the other hand, still doesn’t understand why his actions are completely unacceptable. Unfortunately, for now, there is no one willing to hold him to account. We will continue to fight till that changes. Will you join NJ2AS and help?