Senate Approves Centerpiece Of Comprehensive Gun Safety Plan

Centerpiece Of Package Will Create Model System of Universal Background Checks, Incorporating Mental Health Records, Covering Private Transactions & Ammunition Sales

TRENTON – The Senate on Thursday approved major portions of a comprehensive package of gun safety bills 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 and ammunition sales, among other actions to prevent gun violence.

“This is a far-reaching plan to reduce gun violence that will serve as a national model for gun safety,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney, the plan’s lead sponsor. “We are accomplishing here in New Jersey what couldn’t get done in Washington. This plan will create a modern, electronic system of background checks for all gun sales that will help keep weapons out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them by including instant access to criminal and mental health records and by cracking down on illegal gun sales. These are important improvements to the state’s already tough laws that will help make our streets and communities safer and more secure.”

The reforms also require a permit for all ammunition purchases and mandate safety training for a gun license.

The new, modernized 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.

Also included are bills to curtail urban violence by setting tougher penalties and bail requirements for certain gun crimes. The measures will help keep violent, repeat offenders off the streets by setting mandatory prison sentences for illegal possession of a firearm and require that bail be paid in cash for more serious gun crimes.

“We have to keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them and we have to crack down on illegal firearms,” 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 Weinberg, a key cosponsor of the plan, said the inclusion of mental health records in the background checks is an important improvement to existing law.

“Many of the tragic mass killings that took the lives of so many innocent victims were done by those with mental health problems,” said Senator Weinberg. “We have to do more to keep weapons out of their hands to prevent these terrible tragedies from happening.”

The plan will disqualify those on the federal Terrorist Watchlist from a weapons permit, require permits for all ammunition purchases, including online sales, provide electronic reporting of ammunition transactions, prohibit state investments in companies that manufacture, sell or import assault weapons for civilian use and upgrade penalties for giving a gun to a child.

“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,” added Senator Nia Gill (D-Essex/Passaic). “This legislation will improve our background check system to ensure a more complete screening of potential purchasers. It will also make sure firearms are kept out of the hands of individuals identified by authorities as being a danger to the public. Along with the additional bills moving through the Legislature, these measures will go a long way toward making our streets safer.”

The bills approved by the Senate on Thursday:

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

The Centerpiece Bill Will:

o 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;

o 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;

o Require, for the first time, that private sales go through a dealer so that full background checks will ensure compliance with permit requirements;

o Require a photo ID;

o Require safety training to qualify for a firearms permit;

o Criminalize the purchase and possession of ammunition by those convicted of certain crimes;

o 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;

o Mandate the immediate revocation of gun permits at sentencing for those convicted of a crime and for those ordered into involuntary commitment;

• (S-2492) Senator Buono/Senator Gill – Include mental health data and criminal records on those not allowed to own or possess firearms in records included in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System;

• (S-2485) Senator Scutari/Senator Gill – Disqualify those on federal Terrorist Watchlist from eligibility for gun permits;

• (S-2178) Senator Lesniak/Senator Buono – Ban the sale of .50 caliber or greater firearms;

• (S-2804) Senator Turner/Senator Sweeney – Ensure that those convicted of unlawful possession of a gun will serve mandatory prison terms to keep them off the streets by increasing the mandatory minimum from one-third of the sentence to one-half of the sentence or three and one-half years – which ever is greater;

• (S-1133) Senator Turner – Keep violent and repeat offenders off the streets by requiring those charged with the most egregious gun-related crimes to pay full cash bail;

• (S-1279) Senator Turner –Upgrade the penalty for unlawfully selling, giving or transferring a firearm to anyone under 18 years of age;

• (S-2467/A-3668) Senator Gill/Senator Weinberg/Senator Codey – Prohibit state investments in companies that manufacture, sell or import assault weapons for civilian use; ***

• (S-2801) Senator Van Drew – Extend the statute of limitations for gun thefts;

• (S-2552) Senator Van Drew/Senator Oroho – Codify regulation exempting firearms records from OPRA, abolishes common law right of access.

Also in the package are bills already approved by the Senate on May 13th:

• (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;

• (S-2718/S-2612) Senator Weinberg – Will improve the reporting, tracing and collection of illegal firearms by requiring law enforcement to report certain information to inter-jurisdictional electronic databases, including the National Integrated Ballistics Identification Network and the New Jersey Trace System;

• (S-2724) Senator Norcross – Will establish a School Security Task Force to find ways to make schools safe and secure;

• (S-2430) 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;

• (S-2468) Senator Norcross – Will allow for motor vehicles used in the commission of a crime, including illegal weapons, to be impounded;

• (S-2720) Senator Weinberg – Will make aggregate number of firearms purchaser identification cards and permits subject to Open Public Records Act;

• (S-2175) Senator Lesniak/Senator Ruiz – Will have the Department of Education develop an informative pamphlet for schools to distribute to the parents of all their students;

• (S-2722) Senator Norcross – Provides a 180 day window for persons to dispose of certain unlawfully possessed firearms;

• (S-2725) Senator Vitale – Changes from second-degree to third-degree the crime of possession for an unlawful purpose when the weapon is a BB gun.

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