New Jersey gun bill narrowly clears Assembly after aggressive debate
No Republicans voted in favor of the measure
The bill would create an extensive list of places where carrying a weapon would be banned, including beaches, bars, zoos, and sports stadiums. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
New Jersey is one step closer to overhauling the state’s concealed-carry laws after a sweeping gun-control bill passed the Assembly Monday following a tense, 90-minute debate.
Democrats introduced the measure (A4769) in response to a June U.S. Supreme Court ruling that expanded the rights of gun owners to carry concealed weapons in public. The bill, which is expected to face a legal challenge from pro-Second Amendment groups, passed with only Democratic votes in favor.
“I will be voting as a father, as a husband, and a proud gun owner. I will be voting as someone who understands public safety is a responsibility — our responsibility,” said Assemblyman Joe Danielsen (D-Middlesex), prime sponsor of the bill.
The measure narrowly passed 42-29, with one abstention (legislation needs 41 yes votes in the Assembly to pass). The bill must also win approval from the state Senate, where it has not been scheduled for a floor vote, before heading to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk.
It would create an extensive list of areas where guns are prohibited, including beaches, bars, zoos, and sports stadiums. It also would impose new fees and fines, insurance requirements, and storage mandates on gun owners.
Republicans on Monday argued the new restrictions would hurt legal gun owners and protect criminals who disregard gun laws, and they repeatedly noted that New Jersey already has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. Assemblyman Erik Peterson (R-Hunterdon) called the bill “legislative insurrection.”
“The real problem is the criminal, the bad guys and bad gals. But no, we don’t want to target them. We want to target the most law-abiding citizens who are well trained and go through these background checks,” said Assemblyman Hal Wirths (R-Sussex). “And it’s just like I said, since day one … the real goal among many of you, quite frankly, is to take the guns away.”
Republicans invoked Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, the rise in carjackings, protecting life in and out of the womb, and threats to democracy as reasons to vote against the measure. Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex) repeatedly told them to stay on topic.
Assemblyman Brian Bergen (R-Morris) went back and forth with the bill’s sponsor on whether the measure is constitutional. Bergen has repeatedly said he thinks the measure violates both the U.S. Constitution and the Supreme Court’s June ruling.
He asked Danielsen to define phrases in the bill, including “incidental entry.” The bill would make it a crime to knowingly carry a gun into certain places except “in the case of a brief, incidental entry onto property.”
“No,” Danielsen shot back. “I think you should consult an attorney or the dictionary.”
Bergen then referred to Danielsen as an expletive, later saying on Twitter that he “meant it.”
Democrats said the bill respects the Second Amendment while also protecting New Jersey residents. They argued the June Supreme Court decision allows for states to impose gun regulations.
Ahead of the vote, Danielsen repeated his confidence that the bill is constitutionally sound based on “extensive research.”
“It’s a bill that strikes the important balance between respecting and protecting people’s Second Amendment rights, while also making sure we are doing it in the most responsible and safest way possible,” Danielsen said.
The legislation has the support of several New Jersey police departments and law enforcement unions, including the New Jersey State PBA, the Fraternal Order of Police, and the Former Troopers Association.
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