TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Shirley K. Turner and John A. Girgenti that would strengthen the State’s efforts to combat gang violence by imposing tough penalties on individuals who share firearms and by placing tougher checks on the source of bail money were granted final legislative approval by the Senate today.
“Gangs now pose a threat to every community in New Jersey,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer. “We need to empower law enforcement and local communities to stop these gangs in their tracks and keep their senseless violence and criminal activity out of our neighborhoods.”
The first bill, S-2009, would establish enhanced penalties for persons who possess or receive a firearm that is transferred within any group of two or more people who engage in criminal activity while in possession of the firearm. The firearms, commonly known as “community guns,” are often shared among gang members.
The bill would make this a crime of the second degree and subject to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of one-half of the sentence imposed by the court or three years, whichever is greater and during which the defendant shall be ineligible for parole. A crime of the second degree is punishable by a fine of up to $150,000, imprisonment for a term of five to 10 years, or both.
“This bill is a part of the comprehensive approach we are taking to combat this complex problem,” said Senator Girgenti, D-Bergen and Passaic and Chair of the Senate Law & Public Safety and Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “We want guns and gangs off of our street.”
The other bill, S-2012, would require courts to conduct inquiries concerning the source of bail funds upon request of the prosecutor in cases where the defendant is charged with a crime of the first or second degree, possessing a weapon for unlawful purpose, unlawfully possessing a weapon, a crime related to criminal street gang activity, or certain drug charges.
“The inquiry would make sure the funds used to pay the bail were acquired through legal means,” explained Senator Girgenti.
“Far too often, gangs can easily put together enough illegally obtained money to bail their fellow members out of jail within hours of arrest. We need to end the revolving door of justice and the endless cycle of violence when it comes to gangs and get serious about keeping these criminals in jail,” added Senator Turner.
The Senate approved S-2009 by a vote of 39-0 and S-2012 by a vote of 39-0. Both now head to the Governor’s desk for his signature.