Senate Panel Approves Additional Gun Safety Bills

Comprehensive Package Creates Model System for Instant Background Checks, Cracks Down on Gun Trafficking & Straw Purchases, Keeps Guns From Criminals & Mentally Ill, Requires Safety Training, Aids School Security and Helps Parents Limit Media Violence, Among Other Steps

TRENTON – Continuing its work on the comprehensive gun safety plan, the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee on Thursday approved a series of bills that would crack down on gun trafficking and straw purchases, ban a high-powered assault rifle, set reporting requirements to trace weapon transactions and provide parents with practical information to limit their children’s exposure to violence in the media, among other measures to prevent gun violence.

“This is a strong, comprehensive plan that will help prevent gun violence by addressing the key issues of mental health, gun trafficking and thorough background checks on all gun sales, including private transactions,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney, the lead sponsor of the plan. “The package of bills will build upon the strong laws already in place and serve as a national model for gun safety. It will surpass Colorado, which has been cited by President Obama as a role model for other states.”

Among the bills that gained the committee’s approval today is a measure that will crack down on illegal gun sales and transfers with new penalties for gun trafficking and straw purchases. Sponsored by Senator Donald Norcross, the chairman of the Law and Public Safety Committee, the bill, S-2719, will also require convicted traffickers to serve at least 85 percent of their prison term.

“We have to keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them,” said Senator Norcross. “Illegal guns sales, trafficking and straw purchases have contributed to an endless wave of crime and violence on the streets and in the neighborhoods of too many communities. These bills will help bring more safety and security to our cities and towns by cracking down on illegal guns.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Nia H. Gill, a cosponsor of the plan, stressed the importance of adding to the strong gun laws already in place.

“New Jersey has the second-strongest gun laws in the country, but we can do more,” said Senator Gill. “This package of bills will make real progress by addressing important gun violence issues facing our state.”

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, a lead sponsor, said the far-reaching plan will help reduce the threat of gun violence in New Jersey.

“We can’t eliminate all violence from society but this plan will help make our schools, our communities, our businesses and our places of worship safer and more secure,” said Senator Weinberg. “This is a far-reaching plan that addresses the many factors that cause and contribute to gun violence.”

The bills approved by the committee on Thursday:

• (S2178) Senator Lesniak/Senator Buono – Ban the sale of the .50 caliber Barrett assault weapon;

• (S2719) Senator Norcross/Senator Gill – 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 their term;

• (S-2718) Senator Weinberg – Would 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-2720) Senator Weinberg – Makes aggregate number of firearms purchaser identification cards and permits subject to Open Public Records Act;

• (S2552) Senator Van Drew/Senator Oroho – Exempts firearms records from OPRA;

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

• (S-2721) Senator Van Drew – Clarifies definition of reasonably-necessary deviation when legally transporting firearms in a motor vehicle.

Two bills that would prohibit state investments in companies that manufacture guns that are banned in New Jersey or in firms that make, import or sell assault rifles for civilian use will be voted on by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee next week.

Already approved by the committee are bills that will create an electronic system for instant background checks for all sales, including private transactions, require the immediate revocation of gun permits at criminal sentencing and for those ordered into involuntary commitment, prohibit the purchase or possession of ammunition by those with criminal convictions and require safety training to obtain a firearms permit.

The new, modernized system will combine 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.

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