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Senate President Richard J. Codey testifying at the Senate Education Committee’s hearing on underage drinking on college campuses.

TRENTON — Senator Richard J. Codey will introduce legislation Thursday that would temporarily bar a mentally unstable person from buying and possessing firearms after family, partners or friends call police.

The bill would establish a gun violence restraining order, allowing family members or friends to alert law enforcement if they believe a loved one poses a threat to themselves or others. Law enforcement would then be able to petition a judge to grant a restraining order that could prohibit possession or purchase of a gun for a period of time. The restraining order would be reassessed after that period and the judge would then determine if it should be lifted or not.

“Friends and family members are often the best resources when it comes to detecting potential problems, and this bill would help empower them and law enforcement to intervene and perhaps prevent another mass shooting,” said Codey (D-Essex, Morris). “Unfortunately, we have seen circumstances where attentive family members have alerted police, but police lacked the broad legal authority to intervene and lives were eventually lost.” 

Currently, New Jersey makes it difficult for people with a history of mental illness to purchase a gun but taking away a firearm requires a much higher threshold, such as involuntary institutionalization.

California lawmakers are considering similar legislation after Elliot Rodger, 22, allegedly killed six people on May 23 before killing himself. Less than a month before the killings, police visited Rodger’s home after a friend and his mom became alarmed about his mental health, but police did not intervene because Rodger did not meet specific criteria.

“Police need to have broader powers when it comes to keeping guns out of the hands of people with mental illnesses,” Codey said. “Relying on the observations of family and close friends is a good front line protection to prevent a future incident of murder or even suicide.”