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Senate Democrats Introduce Comprehensive Gun Safety Plan That Includes First-In-The-Nation System Of Instant Background Checks

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

Multi-Bill Package To Reduce Threat of Gun Violence, Several Bills To Be Up In Committee on April 30th

TRENTON – Senate Democrats, led by Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senator Donald Norcross and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, today introduced a series of bills designed to protect against gun violence, including a new electronic system for instant background checks that will be a national model for gun safety. The Senate Democrats’ proposed legislation is stronger than that of Colorado, which President Obama recently recognized as having provided a model for the nation on gun laws.

“Working with advocates on both sides, and with the leadership and assistance of Majority Leader Weinberg and Public Safety Chairman Norcross, the Senate is putting forward a package of bills that will serve as a national model on gun safety,” said Senate President Sweeney. “By using common-sense and new innovative technologies, we can build upon New Jersey’s already stringent gun laws and help reduce gun violence in our state.”

The centerpiece of the plan is legislation, S2723, sponsored by Senate President Sweeney that will create an electronic system for instant background checks for all sales, including private sales, and transfers of firearms, including a photo ID for purchases. The bill also requires the immediate revocation of gun permits at criminal sentencing and for those ordered into involuntary commitment, prohibits the purchase or possession of ammunition by those with criminal convictions and requires safety training to obtain a firearms permit.

The new system combines the permits for handguns and hunting rifles into one, with the information encoded on the buyer’s driver’s license or state-issued identification card. The electronic process allows for instant background checks and real time reporting, immediately identifying those who aren’t allowed to purchase firearms.

Other bills in the package include a ban on the Barrett .50 caliber rifle, cracking down on straw purchases, prohibiting gun sales to those on the federal “no fly” list, upgrading penalties for illegal gun trafficking, addressing mental health issues and studying ways to improve school safety.

“One of the biggest problems in dealing with this issue is the illegal trafficking of guns that eventually end up on our streets and in the hands of criminals. These bills will help clamp down on what is becoming an epidemic, especially in our urban communities. The legislation we have put together will keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals, make our streets safer and our schools more secure,” said Senator Norcross, the sponsor of legislation that would set tougher penalties for gun trafficking and create a study commission on school security.

The bills would also prevent convicted gun traffickers from being eligible for early release from prison, confiscate motor vehicles used to illegally transport guns and impose stricter penalties for the unlawful possession of a firearm on school grounds.

“Gun violence has plagued us for too long, resulting in needless tragedy and grief,” said Senate Majority Leader Weinberg. “The Senate is putting forth a comprehensive plan that goes after many of the factors that contribute to a level of violence that can’t be ignored and shouldn’t be allowed.”

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 (online sales of ammunition currently already require license and/or need to go thru licensed dealer); and,

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

Among the bills in the package, the first series of which will be up in the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee on Tuesday, April 30th, are:

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

• (S2178) Ban the sale of the .50 caliber Barrett assault weapon;

• (S2492) Requires submission of involuntary committment mental health records to National Instant Criminal Background Check System;

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

• (S2719) Upgrade penalties for gun dealers who knowingly sell to those who intend to transfer the weapon to an ineligible person, helping to combat straw sales that allow criminals to get weapons, allow for the seizure and forfeiture of motor vehicles used in the illegal trafficking of firearms, disqualify gun traffickers from early release from prison and require they serve at least 85 percent of the terms before parole;

• (S2648) Upgrades penalty for unlawful possession of certain firearms on school grounds from third degree to second degree crime;

• (S2718) Requires law enforcement to report certain firearms information to interjurisdictional electronic databases, including the NIBIN;

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

• (S2430) Declare violence a health crisis, which could qualify for federal funds and create a commission to study violence and mental health;

• (S2720) Makes aggregate number of firearms purchaser identification cards and permits subject to OPRA;

• (S2471) Prohibit state investments in companies that manufacture, import or sell assault rifles for civilian use;

• (S2552) Exempts firearms records from the Open Public Records Act;

• (S2175) Would have the Department of Education develop an informative pamphlet for schools to distribute to the parents of all their students;

• (S2725) 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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