TRENTON – The Senate today approved a bill, S-2431, designed to crack down on gang activity in New Jersey by increasing penalties for illegal possession of handguns to up to $150,000 in fines and up to 10 years in prison.
The bill passed 32-0 and was forwarded to the Assembly.
“Targeting illegal gun possession is a way for law enforcement to crack down on gang members who can avoid prosecution for other crimes by intimidating witnesses,” said Senator John A. Girgenti, a prime sponsor of the bill. “With charges of illegal gun possession, a police officer’s testimony alone can take dangerous, violent offenders off our streets for up to 10 years.”
The bill, co-sponsored by Senator Paul Sarlo, D-Bergen, Essex and Passaic, would increase penalties for illegal gun possession from a crime of the second degree, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
“This proposal is designed to take bad guys out of circulation for significant period for the safety of our residents,” said Senator Sarlo. “These penalties could call for mandatory terms where those convicted would be ineligible for parole for at least five years.”
The bill would require that the gun possession charge specify that it was discovered by law enforcement in a public place.
Supporters say the “public place” provision would protect gun collectors from being prosecuted in their private homes.