A trio of bills aims to address New Jersey's growing gang problem

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When Sen. Shirley Turner first saw the state Senate's gun control package she immediately thought it didn't do enough to crack down on gangs in New Jersey.  She says gangs are now a problem not only in our cities, but also in our rural areas and even the suburbs,

As a result she introduced a trio of her own bills, which have all been approved by the full Senate.

"Any discussion about curtailing gun violence in our communities is incomplete unless we address the gun violence that occurs everyday in our cities," said Turner. "By strengthening the laws for those who are terrorizing our communities with illegal guns, we can help to reduce the threat that these violent, repeat offenders pose to our residents."

One of Turner's measures would keep violent and repeat offenders off the streets by requiring those charged with the most egregious gun-related crimes to pay full cash bail. This bail restriction would also apply to leaders of gun trafficking networks and repeat offenders prone to violent crimes.

"Too often, news reports on violent crimes describe an offender out on bail for a similar offense," explained Turner. "These are the types of urban terrorists who should stay behind bars while they await trial, not be released on reduced bail to continue their reign of terror. Our police force is understaffed and overworked arresting and re-arresting the same criminals. The revolving door of justice is demoralizing to police officers and the public. This protects the entire state of New Jersey because crime and gun violence know no border."

A second bill would help ensure that those convicted of unlawful possession of a gun will serve mandatory prison terms to keep them off the streets. The bill would increase the mandatory minimum from one-third of the sentence to one-half of the sentence or three and a half years - which ever is greater. The bill was originally drafted after the 2009 shooting at a neighborhood party in Trenton that killed 13-year-old Tamrah Leonard.

"If you ignore gun laws, then you do it at your own peril," said Turner. "You're going to go to jail and stay there longer."

Turner's third piece of legislation would upgrade the penalty for unlawfully selling, giving or transferring a firearm to a person under 18 years of age. The legislation would increase the penalty to a second degree crime, which is punishable with five to ten years in prison and up to a $150,000 fine.