Senate Law, Public Safety And Veterans Affairs Committee Releases Trio Of Handgun Control Bills

TRENTON – The Senate Law and Public Safety and Veterans’ Affairs Committee today released three bills aimed at increasing handgun safety, and reducing the number of straw handgun purchases made in New Jersey.

One measure, sponsored by Senators Fred H. Madden and Sandra Bolden Cunningham, would highlight that certain transfers of handguns are not subject to the current “One Handgun a Month” law. These transfers would include sales among licensed retail dealers, wholesale dealers and registered manufacturers. The bill would also permit transfers of handguns from any gun owner to a licensed retailer, registered wholesaler or manufacturer.

“As Vice Chairman of the Governor’s Firearms Advisory Task Force, I know firsthand that we found some issues that could have proven to be potential problems. These two bills address the needed changes that came as a result of the ‘One Handgun a Month’ legislation,” said Senator Madden, D-Camden and Gloucester, a former State Trooper. “One measure, S-3068, would address a technicality in the language of the ‘One Handgun a Month’ law, and would clean up any shortcomings, as they pertain to firearms dealers and their ability to carry on business. The second measure, S-3104, would provide an avenue for which licensed handgun owners and collectors with a need to buy more than one handgun, could apply to the State Police for a waiver.”

The Cunningham/Madden sponsored measure, S-3068, would highlight that certain transfers of handguns are not subject to the current “One Handgun a Month” law. These transfers would include sales among licensed retail dealers, wholesale dealers and registered manufacturers. The bill would also permit transfers of handguns from any gun owner to a licensed retailer, registered wholesale dealer or manufacturer.

“The goal of these bills is to prevent the illegal practice of straw handgun sales, not to prevent licensed gun owners from purchasing handguns” said Senator Cunningham, D-Hudson, who sponsored the original “One Handgun a Month” legislation. “Unfortunately, in our attempt to stop straw purchases, some qualified, licensed buyers were confused by the legislation. These bills will ensure that anyone with a legitimate need to buy more than one handgun a month is able to do so.”

A second measure, S-3104, sponsored by Senator Madden, would authorize certain need-based exemptions to the one-handgun-a-month requirement. The bill responds to people who need to buy multiple handguns from an estate or inheritance, for a collection, and for competitive or recreational purposes. Anyone seeking an exemption would need to apply to the State Police. Applicants would also be required to outline their justification for their request for more than one handgun a month.

“Under these bills, one example of a justified need would be a handgun collector who comes across a collectors’ set that contains multiple handguns and must be purchased in its entirety,” Senators Madden and Cunningham said. “The need for the ‘One Handgun a Month’ bill is real, but we don’t want to affect the livelihood of good business-owners who make legal transactions.”

A third measure, S-3076, sponsored by Senator John A. Girgenti, would bring State law in line with the provisions of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which includes mental health information as an area of disclosure for use in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

“While New Jersey is currently in compliance with the federal requirements regarding the reporting of criminal convictions and indictments, we have no reporting system for identifying individuals who may not purchase handguns because of mental disorders,” said Senator Girgenti, D-Passaic and Bergen. “In April of 2007, Congress amended the Brady Act in response to the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech University. According to those amendments, the Virginia Tech shooter was able to obtain a firearm, because his mental health history was not entered into the NICS. This bill would serve as a preventative measure, to help protect public safety, and the safety and well-being of residents with mental health issues, who because of their mental disorder may not be aware of the potential dangers that could be associated with gun ownership and irresponsible use.”

The bill would also provide for other legal procedures as required by Federal law.

All three measures now head to the full Senate for a vote.

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