NJ Senate Dems plan to override Christie gun control veto
There’s a school of thought that says those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. New Jersey Democrats are clearly sticking with another school of thought that says never give up.
Despite failing in all previous 48 veto override attempts, Senate Democrats said Wednesday that they planned to try and override Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of a bill (S-2360) that would allow police to tell a judge about any suspicious reports regarding a person trying to expunge their mental health records in order to buy a gun. The override attempt was set for Sept. 24.
“I cannot endorse a continued path of patchwork proposals and fragmented statutes that add further confusion to an already cumbersome area of law,” Christie wrote in his conditional veto message on Aug. 10. “Instead, we must seek real reform. It is our responsibility to enact a comprehensive set of solutions that build safer communities and ensure that individuals with mental illness get the treatment they need.”
At a State House press conference, State Sen. President Steve Sweeney (D-Thorofare) was joined by bill co-sponsor, State Sen. Fred Madden (D-Turnersville) and State Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-Cranbury), chairperson of the Law and Public Safety Committee.
“We’re here to talk about our intentions to do an override of the governor’s conditional veto. This is a very common sense piece of legislation dealing with guns and mental health,” Sweeney said.
Under current law, firearms sellers have to run a background check of prospective gun buyers using the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to see if the person is eligible to purchase a firearm under federal and state law. However, law enforcement officials aren’t involved in the process of determining whether a mental health record of a prospective firearms purchaser should be expunged.
“I thought this was a rather easy bill to support and I was fairly shocked when the conditional veto came through. This was a change that the courts sought from the legislature,” Madden said.
Democrats say law enforcement should have a role because they could be aware of information that is not readily accessible to the court. The bill would require that they be notified so they have the chance to provide valuable information to the court, such as pending charges, the buyer’s criminal history or any suspicious behavior that would suggest they would be a danger to themselves or others.
We’ve seen too many senseless shootings and too many gun tragedies that have taken too many lives, Greenstein said. “When they’re committed by people with mental illness these actions may never be understood. There are some circumstances in which some people just should not be allowed to possess firearms. If they are a danger to themselves or to others they should not be given gun permits.”
The measure was unanimously approved by both houses of the Legislature. GOP State Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Red Bank) was one of the sponsors. The senator did not immediately return a phone seeking comment. Republican State Sen. James Holzapfel (R-Brick) also sponsored the bill. Madden said he called Holzapfel’s office to invite him to the press conference and was told the senator was unavailable.
It takes 27 votes to override a veto in the Senate. There are 24 Democrats yet they have never mustered three Republican votes for a successful veto override. Sweeney said he hoped things work out differently this time.
“Someone said to me earlier, ‘You know you haven’t been able to override him (Christie) yet,' and they’re right,” Sweeney admitted. “They (Republicans) need to stand up and stand up for the people not the politics and this has been issue after issue and this is not political at all. This is an issue we all agreed with, we believed in and we passed so, maybe this time around they’ll actually stand up.”
Kevin McArdle has covered the State House for New Jersey 101.5 news since 2002. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on twitter at @kevinmcardle1.