TRENTON – An Assembly committee Wednesday endorsed nine bills putting new limits on guns in New Jersey, though the one that met the most resistance appears unlikely to get a hearing in the Senate.

The Senate Law and Public Safety Committee added a Thursday hearing to its schedule to hear seven of the proposals, and the eighth advanced in the Senate last week.

But the one that seems least likely to become law at this time would increase the age at which someone can obtain a firearms purchaser identification to legally buy a shotgun or rifle from 18 to 21. Though the Assembly Judiciary Committee voted for that bill Wednesday, lawmakers who voted for it expressed concerns about whether it’s constitutional.

State law already prohibits 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds from legally buying handguns, and gun-rights activists said the proposal entirely voids the Second Amendment right of people who are legal adults to buy a gun.

“It’s despicable that any committee or any legislature would actually think that it’s OK to deprive an 18-, 19-, 20-year-old of a constitutional right under the basis that they’re too immature,” said Alexander Roubian, president of the New Jersey Second Amendment Society.

“They’re mature enough to get married. They’re mature enough to drive a car. They’re mature enough to sign contracts,” he said. “But suddenly, when it comes to their Second Amendment right, they have no ability to do that.”

Amy Faucher, of Hoboken, a volunteer with the New Jersey chapter of Moms Demand Action, said people ages 18 to 20 commit gun homicides at more than triple the rate of adults 21 and older.

She said the recent massacres in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas illustrate the dangers of easy access to high-powered rifles by teenagers.

“Our nation has been shook to the core over the past month with two horrific mass shootings,” Faucher said. “Parents, teachers, grandparents – pretty much anyone, anywhere lives in fear that someone they care about or themselves will be shot going about their daily lives.

“So, if this bill could save one life in one city, somewhere, to me it’s worth it,” she said.

Party-line vote

The bill advanced in a 3-2 party-line vote, with all the Democrats expressing at least some misgivings though leaning in favor of incremental change.

Assemblywoman Carol Murphy, D-Burlington, said she plans to speak with the bill’s prime sponsor, Assemblyman Roy Freiman, D-Somerset, to discuss his thinking behind the bill.

“Mass shootings are horrible, and they are not committed by – for the majority, unless I missed something on that as well – by criminals,” Murphy said. “They are kids and young adults or older adults who have a lot of mental health issues that have also access to guns, whether it’s theirs or somebody within the household or off the streets.”

“Should we be raising the age of majority versus restricting the activities of certain young adults, when you look at the neuroscience and some of these other issues,” said Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, D-Hudson.

“Of all the bills, I struggled with this one a bit,” said Assemblyman John McKeon. “I think the vast majority of adults within that age group are responsible and are not in need of this kind of restriction.”

“This law is not going to pass muster, and I wish we could address the real issues to address these concerns, which are mental health issues in schools,” said Assemblywoman Vicky Flynn, R-Monmouth. “I’m in favor of doing whatever we can to increase funding for that.”

“This is creating a safety issue for young Americans between the ages of 18 and 20, and it’s really something we need to examine,” said Assemblyman Bob Auth, R-Bergen, who said police response times are slower in more sparsely populated western and southern New Jersey and people need to protect themselves.

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Six of the gun-related bills are scheduled to get an additional hearing Thursday in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. The age restriction for long guns is not listed among them.

Michael Symons is the Statehouse bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com

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