Senate Unanimously Approves Madden/Cunningham/Girgenti Bills To Increase Handgun Safety

Bills Would Clarify ‘One Handgun A Month’ Law And Strengthen Background Check Requirements

TRENTON – The full Senate today gave unanimous final legislative approval to three measures aimed at increasing handgun safety and ending the illegal practice of straw gun purchasing here in New Jersey.

Signed into law in July of 2009, P.L.2009, c.104, more commonly known as the “One Handgun a Month” law, bans the sale or purchase of more than one handgun per person, within a 30-day period. The law focuses on straw purchasers and bulk sellers, who obtain multiple gun permits, buy the guns and then sell them on the black market to unlicensed buyers.

“These bills are designed to address potential shortcomings within the current ‘One Handgun a Month’ law, while ensuring that the original intent of the law remains uncompromised,” said Senator Fred H. Madden, D-Camden and Gloucester, a former State Trooper, who served as Vice Chair of the Governor’s Firearms Advisory Task Force. “While the Task Force was conducting its research, we found some issues that could have posed problems for handgun owners, collectors, and sportsmen. These bills would ensure that firearms licensed dealers are able to carry on business, and that handgun owners, collectors, and sportsmen with a need to buy more than one handgun within a 30-day period have a process in place to seek a waiver.”

One measure, S-3068, sponsored by Senators 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 retain dealers, wholesale dealers and registered manufacturers. The bill would also permit transfers of handguns from and handgun 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.

These measures now head to the Governor’s desk, where his signature would make them State law.

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