The final tally in today’s gun-control legi-thon: Twenty (20) proposed bills approved, including one requiring that certain mental health records become part of background checks, another that bans people on the federal terrorist watch list from purchasing firearms and another that reduces the number of rounds an ammo magazine can hold to 10 rounds from 15.
One measure would end ammunition sales online or by telephone or mail order. Another would give mental health professionals the authority to determine whether a gun should be seized from someone.
Another approved bill would establish weapon-free zones around schools, day care centers, public housing facilities, and public buildings — similar to drug laws.
The Law & Public Safety Committee also gave its stamp of approval to a proposed law that would make firearms records exempt from discovery through OPRA – a measure that would avoid the trouble stirred when The Journal News last year published the names and addresses of handgun permit holders in Westchester and Rockland.
The panel also approved a bill, sponsored by Bergen Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Gordon Johnson, that would require gun owners to complete a safety training class before being allowed to buy a gun.
Vainieri also co-sponsored a measure with fellow Bergen Democrat Connie Wagner that would require that firearms purchaser identification cards display a digitalized color picture of the card holder and that the card be renewed every five years. Unlike driver’s licenses, the cards currently don’t have photos or expiration dates.
“Newtown, Connecticut will go down in history as the last straw,” said Democratic state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, also of Bergen County, who promised to move similar legislation through her side of the Legislature.
The Assembly bills are scheduled for a full vote next week.
Two dozen proposed bills in all were put before the committee in Trenton, the seat of a state that already has some of the strictest guns laws in the U.S. Lots more people attended – and spoke. NJ State Police tossed two rowdies. Someone reportedly came dressed as George Washington.
The day-long hearing drew hundreds of opponents, who filled both the committee chamber and an overflow room. Meanwhile, protestors demonstrated outside.
“No law will ever stop someone who is bent on doing evil,” said Scott Bach, of the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, adding that tighter guns laws give criminals “an advantage over everyone else.”
Bach noted that a measure banning weapons of .50-caliber or more – which some legislators said is aimed at powerful battlefield-styled weapons that have firing ranges of up to 2,000 yards — would end up including several types of shotguns and hunting rifles.
“The intention of the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution is to keep the balance of power in the hands of the people, where it belongs,” Frank Fiamingo, president of the New Jersey 2nd Amendment Society, told the lawmakers. “It’s not about hunting, it’s not about sports shooting and it’s not about target shooting.
“It’s about our ability to protect ourselves from all of you.”
While most of those attending agreed, a representative of CeasefireNJ spoke in favor of reducing the magazine limit, which she said would “make it more difficult for shooters to inflict maximum damage in a short period of time.”
New Jersey already has begun implementing an electronic system to submit mental health records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). A proposed measure released by the panel today would make that process mandatory.
“A crucial mental health reporting failure is what allowed the Virginia Tech shooter to purchase weapons despite being adjudicated mentally ill,” said Democrat Pamela Lampitt of Camden/Burlington.
“The NICS relies on states to submit this information,” Lampitt said. “If states fail to do so, the database will have incomplete or inaccurate records, allowing some individuals to purchase guns who should be prohibited. The goal of this legislation is to avoid that at all costs.”
The committee also released a proposal that would create a 15-member Educational Security Task Force, which would devise suggestions for making schools safer – including emergency preparedness and building security, particularly with an eye on new construction.
“Whether it’s the streets of New Jersey communities, a movie theater in Colorado or an elementary school in Connecticut, enough is enough is enough,” said the committee’s chairman, Democrat Charles Mainor of Hudson County.
“Gun ownership is a constitutional right for any American,” said Mainor, , a Jersey City Police detective. “Yet that should not deter us from taking greater measures to protect citizens in the interest of public health, safety and welfare.”
VIDEO OF MAINOR’S OPENING REMARKS:
Mainor sponsored a bill that would establish a 90-day period for anyone who unlawfully possesses an unlicensed and unregistered firearm to dispose of it by transferring it, turning it over to the police or rendering it inoperable.
Another Mainor measure would establish uniform reporting requirements for law enforcement agencies to log and track abandoned, discarded or seized firearms.
The panel sent both measures to the full Assembly.
Another bill moved to the floor would prohibit New Jersey from investing in companies that manufacture, import or sell assault firearms for civilian use.
“New Jersey has no business supporting the manufacture, sale or import of assault weapons for civilians,” said Johnson, the Bergen Democrat. “These weapons do not belong on our streets, have been used for horrific crimes and are undeserving of our investment.”
The bill exempts investments in companies that manufacture, import or sell assault firearms for the exclusive use by nations’ official military organizations and law enforcement agencies.
As for existing investments: The Division of Investment would have up to three years to divest from the prohibited companies.
Under the safety training measure: A class or course may be offered by the National Rifle Association, a state or local law enforcement agency, junior college, college, university firearms training school, or any other entity approved by the superintendent of the New Jersey State Police.
Applicants who have received firearms training through law enforcement or military service may substitute that experience for the required class or course training.
Most of the panel’s Republicans voted against the measures and most of the Democrats in favor. Going the opposite way were Monmouth Republican Sean Kean and Cumberland Democrat Nelson Albano.
PHOTO ABOVE: Courtesy Jurriaan Maessen (ExplosiveReports.com)