GOP senator introduces bills to loosen gun restrictions in New Jersey

By: - May 18, 2022 7:15 am

Sen. Ed Durr said he introduced the pro-gun bills because because constituents and gun advocates pushed for them. (Amanda Brown for New Jersey Monitor)

A freshman state senator inspired to run for public office after he was denied a concealed carry permit has introduced a bevy of bills that would expand gun rights in New Jersey.

Most of the legislation sponsored by Sen. Ed Durr (R-Gloucester) seeks to loosen some of the famously tight restrictions New Jersey places on gun owners and aligns with measures pro-gun advocates have long championed.

But some of the bills — including one to authorize $1 million for high schoolers to start gun clubs — are sure to raise eyebrows, even among those who aren’t gun foes.

Durr acknowledges they are unlikely to win enough support to pass in the Legislature, which Democrats control.

“We know there’s a slim chance in hell of them passing, but I’ve always subscribed to the belief that a question not asked is going to get the same answer. So you might as well ask,” he said. “Let’s put it this way – last year, everybody was saying there was no shot in hell for Ed Durr to be a senator. So I will never say never to nothing.”

Durr won his Senate seat in November in a stunning upset that ousted longtime Senate President Steve Sweeney.

Lawmakers last year advanced a package of bills intended to strengthen New Jersey’s gun laws. They failed to pass, but Gov. Phil Murphy renewed his push for the package Monday in Hackensack, two days after a white supremacist gunned down 13 people, 10 of whom died, at a Buffalo supermarket in a racist attack. Murphy also urged the public to elect policymakers who will act to prevent gun violence.

“This is another mournful week in America,” Murphy said. “How many more people have to senselessly die before we wake up? How many more have to senselessly die before we come to our senses? Common sense gun safety now!”

Durr’s proposal for the state to pay for high schoolers to start gun clubs and schools to teach about gun safety comes as school shootings hit an all-time high last year, with at least 42 school shootings reported even as the pandemic kept schools closed the first few months of the year, according to the Washington Post.

Another bill that ostensibly seeks to remove restrictions on BB guns would also decriminalize the purchase, possession, and transfer of armor-piercing ammunition and firearms with sound and flash suppressors, as well as those without serial numbers.

Another would eliminate a gun owner’s duty to retreat before resorting to deadly force in self-defense, as state law now mandates.

Durr also wants to eliminate capacity limits on ammunition. State law now restricts ammunition magazines to 10 rounds. Durr introduced a bill that would lift that limit, decriminalize the use of large-capacity magazines, and remove several firearms, such as semi-automatic shotguns and rifles, from the state’s list of firearms that are considered assault weapons.

Mass shooting fatalities are the fastest-growing category of gun deaths, and mass shootings often involve firearms with large-capacity magazines, which enable a user to shoot many people in a short span of time, according to a 2021 study by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Durr said he owns several firearms for self-defense. He introduced the bills in part because of his own desire to get a concealed-carry permit, and also because constituents and gun advocates pushed for it.

“I won’t lie — a lot of the gun bills were just to put them there, and let’s see which one slips through, because they are just stealing law-abiding citizens’ rights left and right. And it’s got to stop,” Durr said.

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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.