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Landmark Gun Safety Measure Goes To The Governor

New Jersey Senate Chambers

Centerpiece of Package To Create Model System of Universal Background Checks Approved By The Senate, Along With Other Bills

TRENTON – The Senate on Thursday approved and sent to the governor three bills from the comprehensive plan for gun safety, including the centerpiece that will overhaul the state’s firearms permitting process by creating a modern, electronic system for universal background checks that will include mental health records and cover private transactions.

“This will be a model for the nation,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Salem/Gloucester/Cumberland), the lead sponsor of the legislation that will overhaul the permitting process. “It will create a modern, electronic system of instant background checks for all gun sales that will include instant access to criminal and mental health records and by covering private transactions. It will make existing gun laws more effective and help keep weapons out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them.”

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.

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, a co-sponsor of the plan, said that including a more thorough check of mental health records in the background checks is an important improvement to existing law and the inclusion, for the first time, of private gun sales is an important step to gun safety.

“Most of the mass killings that tragically claimed the lives of so many innocent people might well have been done by those with mental health problems, said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen).”This will help weapons out of their hands. And extending the background checks to cover private transactions is an important step.”

The other bills that gained final legislative approval would crack down on gun trafficking and create a study commission on violence. The anti-trafficking bill, S-2719, will crack down on illegal gun sales and transfers with new penalties for gun trafficking and straw purchases. Sponsored by Senator Donald Norcross, another lead sponsor of the package, and Senator Nia H. Gill, the measure will allow for the confiscation of motor vehicles used to smuggle guns, impose tougher penalties for gun dealers who knowingly allow straw purchases and deny early release from prison for convicted traffickers and require that they serve at least 85 percent of their terms.

“We have worked diligently over the past few months on a package of bills that will reduce gun violence on our streets and make our neighborhoods safer and more secure. Cracking down on illegal gun trafficking was an important part of our effort, as it will help keep firearms out of the hands of criminals who terrorize our communities,” said Senator Norcross (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Anyone who moves firearms illegally in our state will face a hefty prison term, including dealers who make it their business to facilitate straw purchases. This will go a long way to stem the flow of guns to our streets where all too often they are used in the commission of violent crimes.”

“Senate Democrats put together a legislative package aimed at improving our gun laws to better protect the residents of New Jersey. We made it a priority to address the very serious problem of gun violence taking place every day in our towns and cities, and addressing trafficking was critical,” said Senator Gill (D-Essex/Passaic). “This bill will strengthen penalties for those who illegally traffic guns and ensure those that engage in this activity are held accountable for their actions. Along with the additional bills moving through the Legislature, these measures will help to improve safety in our communities.”

The bill creating a violence commission, S-2430, sponsored by Senator Raymond J. Lesniak (D-Union) and Senator Shirley K. Turner (D-Mercer), would declare violence a “public health crisis” and empanel a commission to look at ways to mitigate violence and recommend additional steps for gun safety. The commission would include experts on all aspects of violence, including representation from domestic violence prevention groups.

“Violence is a pervasive and destructive force in society that has widespread consequences for all Americans,” said Senator Lesniak. “We need to get a better understanding of its causes so that more can be done to prevent the senseless acts of violence that result in tragedy and so we can reverse the insidious culture of violence.”

“With today’s vote, we are making enormous progress in the fight to crack down on the unlawful possession of guns and keep our streets safe. But the discussion cannot end here,” said Senator Turner (D-Mercer/Huntington). “Through this commission, we will be better equipped to address future safety concerns and protect the well-being of our citizens.”

The bills that gained final legislative approval were:

• (S-2723/S-657/S-2456/S-2465/S-2474/S-2476/S-2525/S-2659/A-4182) Senate President Sweeney/Senator Norcross/Senate Majority Leader Weinberg;

The Centerpiece Bill Will:

  • 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.

Approved by the Senate 22-16.

• (S-2430/A-3690) Senator Lesniak/Senator Turner – Will declare violence a health crisis, which could qualify for outside funds and create a commission to study violence and mental health; it would seek funds from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to mitigate the crisis.

Approved by the Senate 27-9.

• (S-2719) Senator Norcross/Senator Gill – Will crack down on illegal gun sales and transfers with new penalties for gun trafficking and straw purchases, upgrade penalties for gun dealers who knowingly sell to those who intend to transfer the weapon to an ineligible person, and disqualify gun traffickers from early release from prison and require they serve at least 85 percent of their term.

Approved by the Senate 38-0.