LACEY — Following the baseball-bat beating of a raccoon on video last year, a lawmaker wants to ban the sale of traps to teenagers.

In the video posted to the Ocean County Scanner News website in December, a raccoon caught in a steel trap is smashed at least eight times by an aluminum baseball bat.

"Hit 'em, hit 'em, hit 'em," one teen says to the other, who strikes the critter in the head as it hisses.

Toward the end of the video, the creature twitches.

"You see that animal cry out in pain," state Sen. Vin Gopal, D-Monmouth, said.

The horror he said he felt watching the "gruesome" video went beyond the borders of his district, prompting him to introduce Senate bill  S3611, which would ban the sale of traps to anyone under the age of 18.

"I don't think minors should be trapping animals, especially without adult supervision. When you're under 18, your mind is still maturing," Gopal said.

In the Lacey case it was not clear who set the trap.

"A lot of FBI studies and investigative studies have shown that usually young men and women who have tendencies to abuse animals at an early age can get some [violent] tendencies later in life," Gopal said.

He cited Nikolas Cruz, the gunman who killed 17 people last year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, as an example of someone with a history of animal abuse.

"I had a lot of residents in the Forked River area contact me and say 'I know the law says we can't know more about these two young men but I feel we might be seeing them on the news in a few years so there should be some protection.'"

Gopal said that he is not against hunting but believes that a more humane way should be found for trapping and suggested lethal injection as an option.

Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer in February said he is "keenly aware" of the public outcry over the video but cannot reveal the outcome of the investigation because juveniles are involved.

"As a matter of law, by statute, information concerning juveniles shall be strictly safeguarded from public inspection and dissemination. This office, as the chief law enforcement agency of Ocean County, would be violating the very law we are sworn to uphold if we were to comment on an investigation involving juveniles," Billhimer said in an email.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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