May 25, 2011
STATE OF NEW JERSEY IN THE INTEREST OF J.M.K., A MINOR.
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Somerset County, Docket No. FJ-18-984-09.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted March 15, 2011
Before Judges Wefing and Koblitz.
Appellant J.M.K. was charged with three acts of delinquency that if committed by an adult would constitute possession of a defaced firearm, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-3d; possession of a handgun while under the age of twenty-one, N.J.S.A. 2C:58-6.1; and sexual assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2c(1).*fn1 At the time these charges were filed, J.M.K. was seventeen years of age.
J.M.K. filed a motion contending that because he possessed the weapon for self-defense, it was unconstitutional to charge him with weapons offenses. He rested his argument on the then-recent decision of the United States Supreme Court, District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 128 S. Ct. 2783, 171 L. Ed. 2d 637 (2008), in which the Court struck down a District of Columbia law that effectively completely prohibited an individual from having a handgun within his home for self-defense. After hearing defendant's motion, the court denied it.
J.M.K. then entered a conditional plea of guilty, reserving his right to raise on appeal his argument with respect to the constitutionality of enforcing these weapons statutes against him. R. 3:9-3(f). The trial court sentenced J.M.K. to a probationary term of eighteen months.
Defendant has appealed. He raises but one contention on appeal:
BASED ON DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA V. HELLER
N.J.S.A. 2C:39[-3]d AND N.J.S.A. 2C:58-[6.1] ARE UNCONSTITUTIONAL AS APPLIED TO J.K. IN VIOLATION OF HIS SECOND AMENDMENT RIGHTS.
We are satisfied the trial court was entirely correct in rejecting J.M.K.'s argument. The Court in Heller carefully noted that nothing within its opinion should be interpreted to mean that a state lacked the ability to enact reasonable regulations controlling the possession of handguns. Heller, supra, 554 U.S. at 595, 128 S. Ct. at 2799, 171 L. Ed. 2d at 659.
N.J.S.A. 2C:39-3d prohibits the possession of a defaced firearm, with the exception of an antique firearm or handgun. N.J.S.A. 2C:58-6.1, on the other hand, bars an individual under the age of eighteen from acquiring a firearm and an individual under the age of twenty-one from acquiring a handgun, with certain exceptions not pertinent to this appeal.
Neither statute has the absolutist impact that led to the Court striking down the District of Columbia law. The prohibition against possession of a defaced firearm is aimed at the trafficking in illegal weapons that poses such a risk to public safety. And we consider it completely reasonable for the Legislature to have acted to bar the young and immature from possessing such lethal weapons.
We deem J.M.K.'s arguments to the contrary to lack sufficient merit to warrant further discussion. R. 2:11-3(e)(2).