These measures are a blend of temperance and temerity - the temperance necessary to address this issue pragmatically without trampling on Second Amendment rights, and the temerity to tackle this issue once and for all.
For those who argue that our efforts are an emotional response to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I don't entirely disagree. To not be driven by emotion to address the incomprehensible slaying of 20 innocent children would be baffling.
This is not, however, a knee-jerk response. The time to get serious about protecting our communities from gun violence is long overdue. Many of the proposals we have put forth are the result of long-running discussions, expert advice, and common sense.
Limiting ammunition magazines to no more than 10 rounds may help prevent would-be shooters from gunning down half of a movie theater. Taking guns away from an individual deemed dangerous by a mental-health professional may help prevent a college campus tragedy.
Many of our other proposals are designed, not to infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens, but to keep guns out of the hands of criminals or those prone to violence as a result of severe mental-health issues.
Requiring government-issued photo identification cards to purchase a firearm is no more unreasonable than requiring photo identification cards to drive an automobile.
Another proposal would prohibit anyone on the FBI's terrorist watch list from obtaining a gun permit. Nearly 250 people on the list bought guns in 2010, according to the Government Accountability Office.
Still other proposals would:
Ban the sale of powerful, often battlefield-style, weapons of .50 caliber or more; establish gun-free zones around schools;
Prohibit the sale of body-armor-piercing bullets to protect law enforcement;
Require the state to submit certain mental-health records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to help law-enforcement agencies nationwide conduct more thorough background checks;
Require all state law-enforcement agencies to report information relating to abandoned, discarded, or seized illegal guns to the National Crime Information Center to determine whether that firearm has been reported stolen; and
Require ballistic tests to be conducted on such guns and reported to the National Integrated Ballistic Identification Network to determine if the firearm is associated with a crime.
We cannot expect to put an end to each and every gun crime, but we can responsibly close the gaps and make our laws stronger. With the vast majority of Americans now supporting stronger, smarter gun laws, it begs the question: If not now, when?
When will the cries of bereaved parents and the deafening silence on our playgrounds finally tip the scales toward action rather than inertia? If we sit on our hands we will mourn not just the victims we have already lost, but the many more that will inevitably follow.
The General Assembly will tilt the scales toward action on Thursday because, as President Obama said in his State of the Union message, "They deserve a vote."
Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver, a Democrat, represents New Jersey's Essex County.