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Senate Committee Acts On Model Gun Safety

Law & Public Safety Committee Approves Seven Bills to Protect Against Gun Violence, Including Modernized System for Instant Background Checks for All Gun Purchases

TRENTON – A key Senate committee on Tuesday approved a significant portion of the gun safety plan advanced by Senate Democrats, including legislation that would create a modernized electronic system for instant background checks that will be a national model. The Senate Law and Public Safety Committee voted for seven of the bills in the comprehensive plan.

“This gun safety plan will build on New Jersey’s already strong gun laws to make our communities safer from gun violence,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney, the lead sponsor of the plan. “It includes a new electronic system for instant background checks covering all gun sales and transfers that will be a national model for gun safety. This is a stronger plan than that in Colorado, which President Obama cited as a model for the country.”

The centerpiece of the plan is legislation, S2723, sponsored by Senate President Sweeney, which will create an electronic system for instant background checks for all gun sales and transfers, including private transactions. The modernized system combines the permits for handguns and hunting rifles into one, with the information embedded on the buyer’s driver’s license or state-issued identification card.

A photograph would be required on the ID.

The new, electronic process allows for instant background checks with up-to-date information, immediately identifying those who aren’t allowed to purchase firearms.

The bill requires and the new system allows for the immediate revocation of gun permits at criminal sentencing, for those ordered into involuntary commitment and prohibits the purchase or possession of ammunition by those with criminal convictions.

The measure also requires safety training to obtain a firearms permit.

“These bills will help clamp down on what is becoming an epidemic of violence in many urban communities,” said Senator Donald Norcross, a cosponsor of the plan and chairman of the Law and Public Safety Committee. “The plan makes real progress by helping to keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals and the mentally ill, which will make our streets, our schools, and our places of worship safer and more secure.”

Other bills that gained committee approval would prohibit gun sales to those on the federal “no fly” list, include certain mental health records in the background checks, study ways to improve school safety and officially declare violence a public health crisis, a move that could attract outside funding to prevent violent behavior.

“This is a comprehensive plan that addresses the multiple factors that contribute to a level of violence that can’t be ignored and shouldn’t be allowed,” said Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, a cosponsor of the plan. “From enhanced background checks to mental health, gun trafficking, safety training, school security and studies to learn more about the causes and cures for gun violence, we are making real strides with these bills.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Nia H. Gill, a cosponsor of the plan, stressed the importance of building on the strong gun laws already in place in New Jersey.

“This package of bills will improve upon New Jersey’s laws, which are currently the second strongest in the nation. It will modernize our system of background checks, increase penalties for gun traffickers, prevent those on the no-fly list from purchasing firearms, and prohibit investment of pension funds into companies that sell firearms that our state has responsibly banned,” said Senator Gill. “Taken in their entirety, the bills moving through this process will go a long way to improve gun safety and to help end gun violence that have affected the lives of so many in our communities.”

The gun safety bills approved by the committee today:

• (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 of the package would:

• Establish an electronic system of instant background checks for gun retailers for all purchases, both public and private, combining the separate permits for handguns and hunting weapons into one card. The system would use motor vehicle licenses or state-issued ID cards encoded with the buyer’s firearms ID information in the database operated by the State Police for permits for handguns and hunting rifles;

• Require a photograph on the ID;

• Require safety training to qualify for firearms permit;

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

• Require a valid firearms ID or hunting license for the purchase of ammunition and that ammunition bought online is shipped to address on the firearms permit; and,

• Mandate the revocation of gun permits at sentencing for those convicted of a crime and for those ordered into involuntary commitment.

• (S2485) Senator Scutari/Senator Gill – Disqualify those on the federal “no fly” list from eligibility for gun permits;

• (S2492) Senator Buono – Requires submission of involuntary commitment mental health records to National Instant Criminal Background Check System;

• (S2722) Senator Norcross – Provides a 180 day window for persons to dispose of certain unlawfully possessed firearms;

• (S2724) Senator Norcross – Establish a School Security Task Force to find ways to make schools safe and secure;

• (S2430) Senator Lesniak/Senator Turner – Declare violence a health crisis, which could qualify for outside funds and create a commission to study violence and mental health;

• (S2725) Senator Vitale – Changes from second-degree to third-degree the crime of possession for an unlawful purpose when the weapon is a BB gun.

The committee will take up more gun safety bills that are part of the Senate Democratic plan on Thursday. The bills would crack down on straw purchases, impose more stringent penalties for gun trafficking, ban the sale of the .50 caliber Barrett rifle and establish more reporting to trace firearms transactions, among other measures.

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