TRENTON — Eight gun-control bills were advanced Thursday by an Assembly committee, including a proposal that would make firearms purchaser identification cards valid for four years, rather than indefinitely, and require training before a person could obtain them or purchase permits.

The package also would change the state’s personalized handgun law by requiring such "smart guns" to be available at retailers but not exclusively, should the technology reach the market; expand rules for how guns are stored in homes; regulate the sale of handgun ammunition.

“We have very good laws already, but they need to be made even better to save more lives,” said the Rev. Robert Moore, executive director of the Coalition for Peace Action and its Ceasefire NJ project.

National Rifle Association lobbyist Darin Goens said he’s been involved with gun-related legislation in New Jersey for nine years now.

“It seems to me that every time we come back, it’s just an indictment that the last round of gun bills didn’t work,” Goens said.

Scott Bach, executive director, Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs, said the latest bills either only affect law-abiding citizens or have unintended consequences due to how they’re worded.

“The whole approach seems to be, to New Jersey: There’s a problem, there’s a reaction to it, and there’s a proposed solution to it,” Bach said. “And the solution that’s proposed nine times out of 10 is one that targets the wrong people. It targets the law-abiding gun owner who’s already subject to incredible burdens and scrutiny.”

Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, D-Camden, offered to meet with Bach to see if there are areas of common concern.

“Our goal and our intention … is to protect the Second Amendment while we’re protecting the innocent,” Greenwald said.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee’s four Democrats supported all eight pieces of legislation. Its two Republicans voted in tandem: for one bill, against four and abstaining on three.

The bills that advanced include:

  • A1016 Establishes commission to approve personalized handguns; requires firearm retailers to sell personalized handguns. Advanced 4-2.
  • A3696 Requires safe storage of firearms; establishes penalties for improper firearm storage. Advanced 4-2.
  • A3896 Requires Attorney General and Commissioner of Health to establish suicide prevention training course and informational materials for firearm retail dealers. Advanced 6-0.
  • A4449 Establishes crime of soliciting transfer of firearm by disqualified person. Advanced 4-0-2.
  • A5452 Provides that firearms purchaser identification card is valid for four years; requires training prior to issuance of firearms cards and handgun purchase permits; revises procedures for passing of firearms to heir or legatee. Advanced 4-2.
  • A5453 Establishes certain criminal penalties for possession and transfer of firearms and ammunition to disqualified person. Advanced 4-0-2.
  • A5454 Criminalizes purchase, transfer, or possession of certain weapons and ammunition by persons convicted of certain crimes. Advanced 4-0-2.
  • A5455 Regulates sale of handgun ammunition and develops system for electronic reporting of firearm information. Advanced 4-2.

The gun-control advocates who testified appeared particularly interested in the bill requiring gun owners to store or secure a firearm that is not in use in a securely locked box or container, a location which a reasonable person would believe to be secure or with a trigger lock.

“Safe storage is fundamental to prevention of gun injuries and death. It is critical to prevent children and teens from accessing guns and injuring themselves or others,” said Helen Ewan of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Cherry Hill.

Diane Dresdale of the Essex County chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women said current storage requirements provide penalties if minors access a loaded gun but don’t apply more generally.

“In New Jersey, 40 percent of all gun deaths are by suicide,” Dresdale said. “Quick access to a gun simply makes it much earlier. It’s more likely for a person to act on his or her suicidal ideation.”

Carole Stiller, president of the New Jersey Brady Campaign, said the bill should go further: “We believe that a gun needs to be unloaded, locked up and with ammunition stored separately.”

Bach said gun storage needs in an apartment building in Jersey City are different than on a farm in Sussex County.

“The government shouldn’t mandate a storage solution that could result in not being able to access a firearm when you need one to defend your life,” he said.

Gun-rights supporters who testified were particularly opposed to the bill requiring training for a person to obtain a purchaser identification card or purchase permits. That bill also limits cards to four years and revises procedures for passing of firearms to heirs.

“I see this bill as an attempt to limit the rights of New Jersey residents to protect themselves and to protect their families by imposing unnecessary and impractical burdens of money and time on law-abiding citizens,” said attorney Theresa Napolitano.

“I’ll do it because I’m a law-abiding citizen,” said Craig Deer of Woodbury. “But I’m not the one that you have a problem with. The people that are here that you’re aiming of these laws at are not the problem.”

New Jersey: Decoded cuts through the cruft and gets to what matters in New Jersey news and politics. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at

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