A national Gannett report detailing major weaknesses in New Jersey’s mental health background checks for firearms purchases as spurred the Assembly Majority Leader to call for action. Assembly Democratic Leader Lou Greenwald says the legislature must strengthen the state’s mental health background check system in order to prevent future tragedies.

Array from NJ Gun Buy Back in Asbury Park & Keansbug (Rosetta Key, Townsquare Media)

“A major national news report has revealed that the same gap in mental health background checks that allowed the mentally ill Virginia Tech shooter to purchase weapons to murder 32 people exists in New Jersey’s laws today,” explains Greenwald. “This critical and dangerous gap in New Jersey’s gun laws could be exploited by unstable individuals looking to perpetrate gun violence in our communities.”

Under current Garden State law, mental health court records are not required to be submitted to the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) system.

Greenwald says this is a loophole that can permit potentially dangerous individuals to purchase firearms despite a disqualifying mental health condition.

“The bottom line is simple, people with potentially dangerous mental illness should not be able to buy firearms,” says Greenwald. “Our legislative package closes this gap in the law, requiring certain mental health records to be submitted to the federal background check system.”

Legislation sponsored by Assembly members Pam Lampitt, Troy Singleton, Tim Eustace and Reed Gusciora that was approved as part of the Assembly’s 22-bill gun violence prevention package is designed close the loophole in New Jersey’s gun laws.

An analysis by Mayors Against Illegal Guns ranks New Jersey among the worst-performing states in submitting mental health records to NICS.

“The time to get serious about preventing gun violence is long overdue,” insists Greenwald. “That is why New Jersey needs our package of legislation to become law without delay.”