Gun bills introduced in N.J. Senate

Senate President Stephen Sweeney
Senate President Stephen Sweeney
Posted: April 28, 2013

TRENTON - A package of gun violence prevention bills was introduced in the New Jersey Senate on Thursday, and the chamber's president said he was committed to advancing the legislation quickly.

President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) said he believes the bills could become a national model as states struggle to curb gun violence after high-profile shootings such as the school massacre in Newtown, Conn.

The Assembly Democratic leader criticized the package, however, because it does not seek to limit magazine capacity, which stands at 15 in New Jersey. Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D., Camden) said he would not advocate moving any antiviolence gun package "unless a ban on high-capacity magazines is included."

The Assembly fast-tracked 22 gun bills through the chamber after the Newtown shootings.

The measures proposed by the Senate would strengthen state gun laws, which are already the second toughest in the nation behind New York's. The bills require instant background checks, mandatory gun-use training, and a greater ability to confiscate gun runners' vehicles. Other bills target straw gun buyers and traffickers, and require access to mental health information for background checks.

Sweeney has scheduled hearings for Tuesday and Thursday.

The Senate proposal comes about a week after Gov. Christie proposed his own gun legislation based on a gun violence task force's recommendations. Christie's proposals include expanding government-funded mental health treatment, requiring parental sign-off before children can buy or rent violent video games, and mandating that identification presented by would-be gun-owners be government-issued.

The Republican's plan also includes a ban on the sale of Barrett .50-caliber semiautomatic sniper rifles, bail reforms that would make it harder for people suspected of violent gun crimes to be released, and provisions to make it easier for courts and health-care professionals to involuntarily commit people they consider violent to a psychiatric hospital. But the plan does not address classroom security or propose stricter limits on the capacity of ammunition magazines. Bills reflecting the governor's proposals are still being drafted.

State Sen. Barbara Buono (D., Middlesex), who is running for governor against Christie, has criticized the governor as trying to dodge gun issues, which could be sticky for the former federal prosecutor, who is considered a Republican presidential contender in 2016.

New Jersey's already restrictive gun laws include an assault-weapon ban, a waiting period for gun purchases, and a one-gun-a-month law.

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