Assembly panel moves on package of gun control bills
New Jersey lawmakers on Wednesday advanced a package of bills aimed at tightening the state’s strict firearm laws, bills Gov. Phil Murphy pleaded for the Legislature to approve after massacres in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas, that left 31 people dead.
The measures, which passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee after a nearly four-hour hearing, were met with opposition from gun rights organizations that spoke against every bill. Votes for the bills were along party lines, with Republican Assembly members Robert Auth and Vicky Flynn voting against or abstaining from most bills.
The measures that passed Wednesday:
- A509 — would raise the minimum age to purchase rifles from 18 to 21 years old.
- A1179 — would require gun owners who move from out of state to register their firearms and obtain a firearm purchaser identification card.
- A1302 — would create new regulations on ammunition sales.
- A1765 — would allow the state attorney general to bring legal action against gun manufacturers and retailers.
- A4366 — would prohibit certain .50 caliber rifles.
- A4367 — would upgrade certain crimes surrounding firearm manufacturing to second-degree.
- A4368 — would mandate gun manufacturers use micro-stamp technology to print serial numbers on firearms.
- A4369 — would bar possession and registration of body armor.
- A4370 — would require someone to receive firearm training to obtain a firearm purchaser identification card that must be renewed every four years.
The Senate Law and Public Safety Committee is expected to take up seven of the bills Thursday. The Assembly bills will head to the chamber’s appropriations committee for a vote Thursday before heading to the floor for a final vote by the full chamber.
The renewed push for the bills — which Murphy first proposed in April 2021 — caught the attention of national gun groups for both activists and survivors of gun violence. The National Rifle Association spoke out against every bill, while the Brady Center and Moms Demand Action urged the committee to advance them all.
“We are one state, New Jersey, and we are limited as to the impact of what we can do. And that means, conversely, that we must do all that we can possibly do,” said Karen Kantor, of Brady New Jersey.
The New Jersey Sharp Shooters also opposed each bill, calling most measures redundant in a state with such strict gun laws. Nicholas Lovett, legislative director for the organization, stressed several times that criminals would not obey any new gun laws.
Some critics of the package also questioned the constitutionality of some of the bills. The measure upgrading the age limit from 18 to 21 to buy certain firearms would likely be tried in court, they said, as would the measure allowing the state attorney general to pursue legal action against gun manufacturers.
Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson) noted during the hearing that an impending U.S. Supreme Court decision on concealed carry permits could also open the state up to new litigation.
Linden Councilwoman Rashanna Cosby objected to the bill requiring firearm training to obtain a permit, and said the proposed four-year renewal requirement would be onerous on communities of color that want to arm themselves. She’s training to become a firearm instructor, and urged lawmakers to allow people to get training from entities other than the New Jersey State Police.
“I know a lot of folks who are like-minded — they are interested in learning more, getting the safety and also home defense. But they are afraid of the state government, to keep it simple,” she said.
Flynn offered some amendments to the bills, which were all tabled. One would have amended the body armor bill to exempt body armor backpacks on school property and school buses. A former school board member, she said she heard from parents who bought this type of protection for their children.
“Parents are utilizing every opportunity to survive such a horrific event as this, and it’s something that we should really deliberate on because we don’t want to take away any possible tool that a parent can use to protect their child to survive an event,” said Auth.
New Jersey’s bills advanced the day after Congress took action on gun safety legislation that is the most comprehensive federal gun safety legislation in years to advance in Congress.