First Of Gun Safety Bills Gain Final Legislative Approval

A view of the Senate Chambers from the 2010-2011 Senate Reorganization.

Legislation To Enhance Tracing, Improve School Security & Take Illegal Guns Out Of Circulation Sent To Governor

TRENTON – The first of the gun safety bills from the landmark package already advanced by the Senate gained final legislative approval on Monday when the Assembly passed and sent to the governor legislation that would enhance the tracing of weapons used in crimes, find ways to improve school security and take illegal guns out of circulation. Three bills were sent to the governor and a fourth, that would include mental health records in background checks, was amended, approved and sent back to the Senate. All four were passed by the Senate last Monday.

“This marks more progress on our work to enhance gun safety with a plan that modernizes and improves the permitting process,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney, the plan’s lead sponsor. “We are accomplishing here in New Jersey what they haven’t been able to do in Washington. In fact, we will be a model for the Nation with an electronic system that helps keep weapons out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them, laws that crack down on illegal guns and that makes our communities safer and more secure.”

The amended bill, A-3717/S-2492, will require New Jersey law enforcement and the courts to include mental health along with criminal records in the information submitted to the federal database used to screen those seeking to purchase a weapon.

The inclusion of mental health records in the background checks that would be required for all gun sales, according to separate legislation in the package, will help keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them, one of the prime goals of the gun safety plan, according to a sponsor of the bill, Senator Nia H. Gill.

“We have witnessed too many cases of gun violence taking place both in our communities and around the country. While our state laws remain some of the toughest, we have to do everything we can to ensure that guns do not fall into the hands of criminals or those who could potentially harm themselves or the public,” said Senator Gill. “These bills represent our commitment to better protect the public through commonsense reforms.”

Sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, the bill to improve the reporting and tracing of weapons seized or collected, A-3797/S-2718, will give law enforcement access to more comprehensive and up-to-date information about guns used in crimes, recovered at crime sites or discarded. The results of ballistic tests on these weapons would be incorporated into the database as well, under the bill.

“This is a smart way of using new technology to track and trace guns that may have been used in crimes,” said Senator Weinberg, referring to the enhanced use of the paperless system known as “ETrace.” “It bridges different federal, state and local jurisdictions so that law enforcement is empowered with the information needed to solve and prevent gun crimes.”

The bill will require law enforcement to report certain information to inter-jurisdictional electronic databases, including the National Integrated Ballistics Identification Network and the New Jersey Trace System.

The two other bills passed by the Assembly, S-2722/A-3796 & S-2724/A-3583/A-1613, both sponsored by Senator Donald Norcross, another lead sponsor of the gun safety plan, will help take unlicensed guns out of circulation and create a process to make schools safer.

“We have to keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them and we have to crack down on illegal sales and trafficking,” said 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.”

Senator Norcross’s amnesty bill will provide a 180-day period to surrender to law enforcement or transfer to an authorized gun owner illegal weapons without facing criminal charges, offering an incentive to take illicit guns out of circulation.

The school safety measure will create a task force to assess the status of school security and determine what should be done to make school children safer. The 11-member School Security Task Force would be comprised of issue-area experts and policy officials to review and consider an array of factors, such as screening systems, school vulnerabilities, police officers in schools, police response capabilities and security technologies.