The nation's toughest ban on assault rifles takes effect today in New Jersey despite legal challenges by the National Rifle Assn. and sportsmen's groups.
It requires owners of most types of the military-style weapons to sell them out of state, make them impossible to shoot or turn them over to police. Anyone convicted of possessing banned weapons faces a maximum of five years in prison.
New Jersey and California have banned the possession of semiautomatic assault firearms, but the New Jersey ban is more restrictive, according to the NRA and gun-control advocates.
Superior Court Judge Paul Levy on Thursday denied a request by the Coalition of New Jersey Sportsmen for a temporary restraining order to prevent the ban from taking effect today.
Levy said coalition attorneys did not convince him that the ban would irreparably harm gun owners. The NRA joined the coalition in seeking the order.
"The timing of this aspect is suspect because the law was passed a year ago," Levy said. "There is no more harm today than there was a year ago." He set a July 5 hearing on the coalition's lawsuit charging that the law is unconstitutionally vague.
The law requires that by today an estimated 300,000 assault-weapon owners must have sold the weapons out of state, rendered them inoperable by removing their firing pins or surrendered them to police.
The California ban contained a "grandfather clause" that allowed owners to keep firearms obtained before the law was enacted. The New Jersey ban has no such clause, but the Legislature has approved amendments inserting one.
Gov. James J. Florio is expected to veto the amendments. He has 45 days from May 23 to veto them, or they become law.