Parents of victims of the horrific Newtown school massacre filled Assembly Democratic Leader Lou Greenwald's State House office yesterday and fought back tears as they pleaded for the legislature to pass a bill to impose a 10-bullet limitation on the capacity of semiautomatic ammunition magazines.

NJ Assembly Democrats Facebook
NJ Assembly Democrats Facebook

The full Assembly has already done it, but Senate President Steve Sweeney is likely to advance a similar measure in the Upper House any time soon.

"I know that outside of a shooting range, the only use for large capacity magazines is to kill as many people as possible," says Nelba Marquez-Greene. Her daughter Anna was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary school. "In an instant, any mother in America could be in my shoes and no one should ever have to feel that pain."

Nicole Hockley, who lost her son Dylan, says the parents of the victims learned the way no other parent should learn that the most dangerous part of an assault weapon is the magazine.

"I feel I owe it to Dylan to advocate on behalf of stronger gun legislation so that no other parent has to feel the pain that we feel," says Hockley. "New Jersey should not wait until there's a Newtown that happens here."

All of the parents insist lives can and would be saved if a shooter is forced to stop shooting and reload.

"We have learned that in the time it took [the shooter] to reload in one of the classrooms, 11 of the children were able to escape," explains Hockley. "That was Dylan's classroom. He was not able to escape, but I'm one of those parents who asks myself every day, every minute, 'If those magazines had held 10 rounds instead of 30, forcing the shooter to reload many more times, would my son be alive today?'"

Another understandably emotional parent on hand yesterday was Neil Heslin.

"If he (the shooter) had to reload three times instead of one time, there would have been more lives (saved)," says Heslin. "Probably, my son Jesse would have been alive today…It's something I don't wish upon any person or any family to ever have to deal with."

Battling strong emotions, one parent also spoke candidly about the nightmare at Sandy Hook.

"I'm Anna's mother," says Marquez-Greene. "Anna was murdered December 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School and I'm also Isaiah's mother. He overheard the execution of his sister and 19 of her friends. As difficult as it is for me to be here I owe it to my sweet caramel princess, Anna, to make sure that I do everything that I can to speak up and help end gun violence."

Lawmakers Reaction

Assembly Democratic Leader Lou Greenwald sponsors the bill limiting the magazine capacity that has been approved in the Assembly.

"Whether it is a college campus in Virginia, a movie theater in Colorado or an elementary school in Connecticut: enough is enough," says Greenwald. "It is time to pass common sense laws to prevent gun violence here in New Jersey - including cracking down on high-capacity magazines. We owe these families and the thousands of New Jersey families that have been devastated by gun violence nothing less."

Democratic State Senators Loretta Weinberg (Majority Leader) and Nia Gill co-sponsor a capacity limit bill in the Upper House. Both say they will work tirelessly to get it passed, but it is still not included in the Senate's overall gun control and violence prevention package.

Greenwald and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver say they will not advance any package of bills that doesn't include the clip limit. Gill is urging them not to hold up progress for one piece of legislation.

"Establishing comprehensive, universal background checks and limiting high-capacity magazines are important first steps," says Oliver. ""Those that want to argue that there's no difference between a 10 and 15 clip magazine should ask the five extra families that have an empty space in their home and their hearts where a child or loved one once was."

The man who will ultimately decide if the capacity limit bill is voted on in the Upper House is State Senate President Steve Sweeney. He's not prepared to include the measure at this point.

"Twenty years ago New Jersey implemented a limit on the size of ammunition clips (and) for two decades that limit has been effective," says Sweeney. "What we must focus on now is preventing guns from getting into the hands of those who should not have them. That means addressing issues of mental health, background checks, illegal guns, and straw purchases."

Senate Gun Control Bills

The Senate Law and Public Safety Committee did consider a variety of other gun control and violence prevention bills yesterday.

The bills approved by the committee would:

  • Establish an electronic system of instant background checks for gun retailers for all purchases, both public and private, combining the separate permits for handguns and hunting weapons into one card.
  • The system would use motor vehicle licenses or state-issued ID cards encoded with the buyer's firearms ID information in the database operated by the State Police for permits for handguns and hunting rifles.
  • Require a photograph on the ID.
  • Require safety training to qualify for firearms permit.
  • Criminalize the purchase and possession of ammunition by those convicted of certain crimes.
  • Require a valid firearms ID or hunting license for the purchase of ammunition and that ammunition bought online is shipped to address on the firearms permit.
  • Mandate the revocation of gun permits at sentencing for those convicted of a crime and for those ordered into involuntary commitment.
  • Disqualify those on the federal "no fly" list from eligibility for gun permits.
  • Require submission of involuntary commitment mental health records to National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
  • Provide a 180 day window for persons to dispose of certain unlawfully possessed firearms.
  • Establish a School Security Task Force to find ways to make schools safe and secure.
  • Declare violence a health crisis, which could qualify for outside funds and create a commission to study violence and mental health.
  • Change from second-degree to third-degree the crime of possession for an unlawful purpose when the weapon is a BB gun.

"Frankly, I'm embarrassed to admit living in New Jersey with such strict gun laws that trample our Constitution," says Lawrence Maleszaski, a National Rifle Association member and a member of the New Jersey Second Amendment Society. "This is such a hodgepodge of feel good, do-nothing legislation."


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