Decriminalize Slingshots in NJ Now
Decriminalize Slingshots in NJ Now
Incredibly, it is a felony to possess or transport any type of slingshot. Period.
The criminal penalties run parallel with illegal gun possession. Under the current law, having a slingshot can be a fourth-degree crime punishable by up to 18 months in prison, a fine of $10,000 or both.
There are no licenses you can apply for, no exceptions for sanctioned competitions, and no recognition of the fact that slingshots have been a popular American children's pastime, a sanctioned Boy Scout shooting sport, and a legitimate, non-lethal, nationally-sanctioned sport.
What's worse, according to attorney Evan Nappen--the author of the seminal treatise on the state's firearm's law, "New Jersey Gun Law"--the statute was passed in error when slungshots, a weapon used by gangs at the time, was mixed up with slingshots.
A passage from the book explains:
"Slingshots became banned in New Jersey when the law was adopted because some idiot didn't know the difference between a 'slungshot' and a slingshot ... Originally the prohibition was to be for 'slungshots' which is something similar to a blackjack and primarily used for hitting people on the head. Unfortunately some legislative geek changed the 'U' to an 'I' and slingshot became a 'per se' [criminal] weapon.'"
Although arrests are rare, the threat of a felony prosecution and incarceration has precluded organized sporting competitions and has clearly had a killing effect on the sport in New Jersey. As one man related:
"I tried to buy a slingshot at a sporting goods store and couldn't find one. I had to go to the hunting section of the store, and ask the man behind the counter that was filled with guns, knives, crossbows and bow and arrows. He told me flat out, 'Slingshots are illegal in New Jersey...so you better just turn around and walk right out of here, before I call the cops.'"
The ludicrousness of the law, and the risk of criminal prosecution it exposes both adults and children to, prompted the NJ Star Ledger to call it the "Bart Simpson Law".
So in 2015 we started a volunteer organization, Slingshot NJ, to raise awareness of the issue and advocate for the decriminalization of slingshots.
Since we started, coverage included The Philadelphia Inquirer & Daily News, radio (WBGO) and news outlets as as The San Francisco Chronicle and The Associated Press. Interest on the Internet has since mushroomed, and sportsmen, parents and citizens alike have voiced strong opposition against this arcane law.
As a result, State Assemblyman Ronald Dancer (R-Ocean) introduced Bill A4434 to remove slingshots from the list of 'per se" felony weapons and decriminalize the possession or manufacture of a slingshot in New Jersey.
The Bill noted that "the definition of 'weapon' in New Jersey is broad enough to include the misuse of any instrument 'readily capable of lethal use or of inflicting serious bodily injury' ...[a]ccordingly, a slingshot can still be considered a “weapon” if it ever used as a weapon."
Unfortunately, after being referred to the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee in May of 2015, it has wallowed there and no other action has been taken.
Sign this petition NOW, and insist that New Jersey's Legislature and Governor finally decriminalize the possession and use of slingshots, legalizing their possession and use in a peaceable, sporting or other safe context.
If you want to take it a step further and have your voice be heard, contact your local NJ state legislator by phone, letter or email here, and the Governor's office via email, or via phone, a letter or on Twitter (info below).
Slingshots are considered per se dangerous weapons under Title 2c – The New Jersey Code Of Criminal Justice Section 2C:39-3(e), making the possession, sale or transport of any type of slingshot without an "explainable lawful purpose” a felony of the fourth degree.
Slingshot NJ provides memberships as a free service to arguably offer some legal protection under the statute's "explainable lawful purpose" provision. Whether or not this would hold up in court or prevent arrest, however, is unknown and untested. You can also join us on Facebook for updates and announcements on projects, campaigns and events.
Contact Info for Governor Phil Murphy
Office of the Governor
PO Box 001
Trenton, NJ 08625