N.J. Assembly to consider gun violence prevention bills

By: - December 13, 2021 7:05 am

Lisa Caso sells guns at Caso’s Gun-A-Rama store on March 25, 2021 in Jersey City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Lawmakers in the New Jersey Assembly’s Judiciary Committee will discuss a package of gun-safety bills Monday, including measures that would set penalties for unsafe firearm storage and require dealers to keep detailed electronic records of ammunition sales.

The most sweeping bill — the New Jersey Safe Storage of Firearms Act — would establish requirements and penalties for gun storage. There are none in place now, outside of a law setting penalties when a child accesses improperly stored loaded guns.

The measure would repeal that law and replace it with storage rules and penalties, ranging from community service to fourth-degree felony charges. It also would set aside $500,000 for the Attorney General’s Office to establish a public awareness campaign about firearm storage requirements and penalties.

The National Rifle Association decried the bill as “draconian legislation” that threatens citizens’ Second Amendment rights and a “rehash of failed regulations.”

“After barely surviving re-election in deep blue New Jersey, Gov. Murphy is back to attacking law-abiding gun owners while doing virtually nothing on enforcement and punishing violent criminals,” NRA spokeswoman Amy Hunter said.

Michael Anestis, executive director of the New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center at Rutgers University, applauded the bills as worthy prevention.

“New Jersey obviously has some of the most robust firearm regulations in the nation, which has resulted in some of the lowest firearm ownership rates and gun violence rates,” Anestis said. “But those gun violence rates aren’t zero. This is not an assault on the Second Amendment. This is trying to increase safety within that firearm community.”

Gun shops saw a huge surge in customers during the pandemic, with handgun permit applications skyrocketing 332% in New Jersey from 2019 to 2020, Anestis noted. So measures that require those firearms to be safely stored and handled should ensure fatalities and injuries don’t surge too, he added.

“Safe storage is probably one of the most powerful defenses we have against all forms of gun violence,” Anestis said. “Safe storage of firearms has been shown to reduce the risk of suicide. It lowers the likelihood that domestic violence will be lethal. It lowers the odds that a kid will play with a firearm and shoot themselves or someone else, or bring it to school. It reduces the odds of theft, which then can often result in trafficking and subsequent use in a crime.”

Also up for consideration are bills that would:

  • Revise the definition of destructive device to include certain weapons of 50-caliber or greater
  • Regulate and develop an online monitoring system for ammunition sales
  • Require gun owners who move into New Jersey to get a firearm purchaser identification card and register guns acquired outside of New Jersey
  • Require training before a would-be buyer gets a handgun purchase permit or firearms purchaser identification card; revise procedures for passing guns down to heirs; and make handgun purchase permits valid for four years

A third of all shootings end in death, and New Jersey has, on average, 475 gun deaths a year, according to the New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center.

More than 1,200 people have been shot — 207 fatally — in New Jersey this year through Oct. 31, according to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.

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Dana DiFilippo
Dana DiFilippo

Dana DiFilippo comes to the New Jersey Monitor from WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR station, and the Philadelphia Daily News, a paper known for exposing corruption and holding public officials accountable. Prior to that, she worked at newspapers in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and suburban Philadelphia and has freelanced for various local and national magazines, newspapers and websites. She lives in Central Jersey with her husband, a photojournalist, and their two children.

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