It'll be a lot tougher to buy a gun in New Jersey, even legally if a bill that passed the full Senate yesterday becomes law.

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NJ Assembly Democrats Facebook

The measure's sponsor calls it the centerpiece of the control package in the Upper House. Gun rights advocates are less than thrilled with it.

The bill creates an electronic system for universal background checks that will include mental health records and covers private transactions and ammunition sales, among other actions to prevent gun violence.

"This plan will create a modern, electronic system of background checks for all gun sales that will help keep weapons out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them by including instant access to criminal and mental health records and by cracking down on illegal gun sales," says Senate President Steve Sweeney, the plan's lead sponsor. "These are important improvements to the state's already tough laws that will help make our streets and communities safer and more secure."

The legislation also requires a permit for all ammunition purchases and mandate safety training for a gun license. The new system will have information on permits for handguns and hunting rifles encoded on the buyer's driver's license or a state-issued "smartcard." The electronic process will allow for instant background checks and real-time reporting, immediately identifying those who aren't allowed to purchase firearms and giving law enforcement the ability to instantly revoke permits from those who become disqualified.

"We have to keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them and we have to crack down on illegal firearms," says Senator Donald Norcross, one of the lead sponsors of the gun safety plan. "These bills will help bring more safety and security to the streets of our cities, schools, businesses and places of worship."

The bills approved by the Senate on Thursday are:

The Centerpiece Bill which would:

  • Overhaul the state's permitting process by establishing a modernized, electronic system of instant background checks for all gun purchases, with up-to-date information on permits for handguns and hunting rifles encoded on the buyer's driver's license or a state-issued "smartcard," allowing for real-time reporting of all gun sales to law enforcement.
  • The instant background checks will include NICS, name check and mental health records, and allow for the immediate disqualification of those who are or who become ineligible for a weapons permit.
  • Require, for the first time, that private sales go through a dealer so that full background checks will ensure compliance with permit requirements.
  • Require a photo ID.
  • Require safety training to qualify for a firearms permit.
  • Criminalize the purchase and possession of ammunition by those convicted of certain crimes.
  • Require a firearms ID for the purchase of all ammunition, require that ammunition bought online is shipped to address on the permit, provide electronic reporting of internet ammunition sales.
  • Mandate the immediate revocation of gun permits at sentencing for those convicted of a crime and for those ordered into involuntary commitment.

Other bills would:

  • Include mental health data and criminal records on those not allowed to own or possess firearms in records included in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
  • Disqualify those on federal Terrorist Watchlist from eligibility for gun permits.
  • Ban the sale of .50 caliber or greater firearms.
  • Ensure that those convicted of unlawful possession of a gun will serve mandatory prison terms to keep them off the streets by increasing the mandatory minimum from one-third of the sentence to one-half of the sentence or three and one-half years - which ever is greater.
  • Keep violent and repeat offenders off the streets by requiring those charged with the most egregious gun-related crimes to pay full cash bail.
  • Upgrade the penalty for unlawfully selling, giving or transferring a firearm to anyone under 18 years of age.
  • Prohibit state investments in companies that manufacture, sell or import assault weapons for civilian use.
  • Extend the statute of limitations for gun thefts.
  • Codify regulation exempting firearms records from OPRA, abolishes common law right of access.

Gun Rights Advocates Respond

Legal gun owners are good people who will follow the laws that are passed according to Sweeney. That doesn't mean they are thrilled with his bill.

"While there are one or two items in that bill that might be helpful to gun owners it's basically a couple of drops of sugar in a goblet full of poison," says Scott Bach with the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs who is also the executive director and past president of the National Rifle Association. "It contains some severe restrictions on 2nd Amendment rights."

Requiring firearms safety training tramples on people's rights according to Bach because they would be forced to prove they've had the training even though they may have owned guns their entire lives.

Video Courtesy NJ Senate Democrats

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