NJ Assembly Advances Over 20 Gun Control Bills [POLL/AUDIO]
In an effort to fast-track legislation designed to prevent gun violence, the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee approved 20 bills yesterday.
Roughly 200 people turned out to testify on the bills. The majority of those speaking before the panel were gun rights advocates and they were far less-than-thrilled with the measures.
Among other things, the bills would boost access to mental health treatment by increasing insurance coverage, create uniform reporting requirements to log and track abandoned, discarded or seized firearms, establish a 90-day period for a person who unlawfully possesses an unlicensed and unregistered firearm to dispose of it by transferring it, turning it over to the police or rendering it inoperable.
Scott Bach, executive director of the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs says, "We mourn Newtown along with the rest of the nation. We agree that something needs to be done to protect our schools and to address deficiencies in the mental health system, but we also recognize that no law will ever stop someone who is bent on doing evil."
"Let us not, after all, forget that 269 New Jerseyans were killed by senseless gun violence in 2011 alone, a 9 percent increase from the prior year," says Assembly Law and Public Dafety Committee chairman, Charles Mainor. "The time to get serious about protecting our children, our law enforcement officers and our communities from gun violence is long overdue. The tragedies have become too common and the sadness too deep. We recognize that we cannot put an end to each and every gun crime, but we can responsibly close the gaps and make our laws stronger for the benefit of everyone."
Other bills advanced include requiring: gun owners to complete a safety training class before purchasing a firearm; all private sales of handguns, rifles, and shotguns to be conducted with a licensed retail dealer under state law after completing a National Instant Criminal Background Check on the recipient of the firearm; the institution of standardized photo identification card requirements for firearms purchases similar to drivers' licenses; limiting how ammunition is sold in New Jersey and require better record keeping of ammunition sales in order to improve accountability; and prohibiting individuals convicted of failing to report a loss or stolen firearm from purchasing a handgun for a certain period of time.
"There isn't a law in this package of bills that would prevent another tragedy, not one," says Bach who is also a member of the National Rifle Association Board of Directors and a former member of law enforcement. "New Jersey doesn't need any more gun laws. Nothing being proposed today will prevent another tragedy."
Other bills advanced would ban the sale of high-capacity magazines capable of carrying more than 10 rounds in New Jersey, ensure New Jersey taxpayer money isn't going to companies that manufacture, import or sell assault firearms for civilian use, ban the sale of .50-caliber rifles - powerful battlefield-styled weapons that would be devastatingly lethal in the hands of terrorists, make it a fourth degree crime to possess ammunition capable of penetrating body armor, make it mandatory for the state to submit certain mental health records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and require the Attorney General to seize a firearm that is in the possession of a person determined by a mental health professional to be likely to engage in conduct that poses a threat of serious harm to the patient or another person.
GOP Assemblyman Sean Kean says, "Assembly Republicans voted today for several common-sense gun safety measures that should make New Jersey a safer place for our families. We also support Governor (Chris) Christie's NJ SAFE task force and a comprehensive study of mental health and the impact of violence in video games, entertainment and the media. We can get beyond political rhetoric, improve gun safety and get at the root causes of these terrible tragedies."
"Approving pieces of legislation that were written in haste without the benefit of a committee of experts to properly consider of their impact - especially when we're looking at Constitutional rights - may not help us achieve our goal of a safer New Jersey," explains Republican Assemblyman Erik Peterson. "We need to work in bipartisan cooperation on ways to prevent violence, which must go beyond common sense gun safety to include mental health issues and stronger penalties against criminals who misuse firearms."