Last week, Governor Chris Christie unveiled his gun control and violence prevention proposals.

Joe Raedle, Getty Images

The full Assembly has already passed a 22-bill package of gun bills and now the State Senate Democrats have introduced their measures. Senate and Assembly leaders are already butting heads over the issue of banning high capacity magazines.

Senate Democrats, led by Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senator Donald Norcross and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg have introduced a series of bills designed to protect against gun violence, including a new electronic system for instant background checks that will be a national model for gun safety.

"Working with advocates on both sides, and with the leadership and assistance of Majority Leader Weinberg and Public Safety Chairman Norcross, the Senate is putting forward a package of bills that will serve as a national model on gun safety," says Sweeney. "By using common-sense and new innovative technologies, we can build upon New Jersey's already stringent gun laws and help reduce gun violence in our state."

Asked if his legislation included limiting the size of ammunition clip to 10 rounds, Sweeney says, "That's not in the bill. What we have is what's been proposed by the President of the United States." The Senate President insists his proposed legislation is actually stronger than that of Colorado, which President Barack Obama recently recognized as having provided a model for the nation on gun laws.

Democratic Leaders in the Assembly are all but calling Sweeney's plan dead on arrival.

"I am disappointed to see that neither the Governor's plan nor the Senate package goes far enough. New Jersey's families, communities and victims of gun violence will not stand for watered-down reform," says Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald.

"Let me be crystal clear: as Majority Leader, I would not advocate moving any gun violence prevention package unless a ban on high-capacity magazines is included."

No bill gets posted for a vote without the approval of Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver. She agrees with Greenwald.

"I've made clear as well that limiting high-capacity ammunition magazines and requiring firearms seizure when mental health professionals determine a patient poses a threat of harm to self or others must be essential parts of any gun violence prevention plan," explains Oliver. "Thus, I agree fully with the Majority Leader and welcome his statement."

The centerpiece of the Senate Democrats' plan is legislation that would create an electronic system for instant background checks for all sales, including private sales, and transfers of firearms, including a photo ID for purchases. The bill also requires the immediate revocation of gun permits at criminal sentencing and for those ordered into involuntary commitment, prohibits the purchase or possession of ammunition by those with criminal convictions and requires safety training to obtain a firearms permit.

Other bills in the Senate package include a ban on the Barrett .50 caliber rifle, cracking down on straw purchases, prohibiting gun sales to those on the federal "no fly" list, upgrading penalties for illegal gun trafficking, addressing mental health issues and studying ways to improve school safety.

Gun rights advocates say the Barrett .50 caliber rifle ban is meaningless because the weapon is very, very rarely used in crimes because it's extremely expensive ($7,000-$12,000), very heavy (upwards of 30 pounds) and bullets go for as much as $5 per.

"One of the biggest problems in dealing with this issue is the illegal trafficking of guns that eventually end up on our streets and in the hands of criminals," says Senator Norcross, the sponsor of legislation that would set tougher penalties for gun trafficking and create a study commission on school security. "These bills will help clamp down on what is becoming an epidemic, especially in our urban communities. The legislation we have put together will keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals, make our streets safer and our schools more secure."

The Senate Democrats' legislation 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 (online sales of ammunition currently already require license and/or need to go thru licensed dealer).
  • Mandate the revocation of gun permits at sentencing for those convicted of a crime and for those ordered into involuntary commitment.

The bills in the package, the first series of which will be up in the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee on Tuesday, April 30th, would:

  • (S2485) Disqualify those on the federal "no fly" list from eligibility for gun permits
  • (S2178) Ban the sale of the .50 caliber Barrett assault weapon
  • (S2492) Requires submission of involuntary committment mental health records to National Instant Criminal Background Check System
  • (S2722) Provides a 180 day window for persons to dispose of certain unlawfully possessed firearms
  • (S2719) Upgrade penalties for gun dealers who knowingly sell to those who intend to transfer the weapon to an ineligible person, helping to combat straw sales that allow criminals to get weapons, allow for the seizure and forfeiture of motor vehicles used in the illegal trafficking of firearms, disqualify gun traffickers from early release from prison and require they serve at least 85 percent of the terms before parole
  • (S2648) Upgrades penalty for unlawful possession of certain firearms on school grounds from third degree to second degree crime
  • (S2718) Requires law enforcement to report certain firearms information to interjurisdictional electronic databases, including the NIBIN
  • (S2724) Establish a School Security Task Force to find ways to make schools safe and secure
  • (S2430) Declare violence a health crisis, which could qualify for federal funds and create a commission to study violence and mental health
  • (S2720) Makes aggregate number of firearms purchaser identification cards and permits subject to OPRA
  • (S2471) Prohibit state investments in companies that manufacture, import or sell assault rifles for civilian use
  • (S2552) Exempts firearms records from the Open Public Records Act
  • (S2175) Would have the Department of Education develop an informative pamphlet for schools to distribute to the parents of all their students
  • (S2725) Changes from second-degree to third-degree the crime of possession for an unlawful purpose when the weapon is a BB gun

Christie's plan to help reduce gun violence focuses on four distinct areas:

  • Expanding New Jersey's Already Stringent Gun Control Measures
  • Making Mental Health Treatment And Screening Mandatory For Those Who Need It Most, And Making It Easier For Health Professionals To Order Treatment For Individuals In Crisis
  • Addressing The Influence Of Violence In Video Games On Today's Youth By Requiring Parental Consent
  • Bolstering Criminal Penalties For Gun-Related Crimes And Reforming Bail Laws To Keep Our Most Violent Offenders Out Of Our Communities

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