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Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Gun safety package advances through Assembly committees

By Joey Fox, December 13 2021 4:47 pm

A raft of nine gun control-related bills championed by Gov. Phil Murphy successfully cleared the Assembly Judiciary and Appropriations Committees today, two weeks after Murphy and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-South Amboy) reached a deal to push the legislation through during the lame duck session. 

Press play to hear a narrated version of this story, presented by AudioHopper.

Among the most notable bills that advanced today were bills that would create safe gun storage requirements, ban .50 caliber weapons, require semi-automatic weapons to be micro-stamped and tracked in a database, tighten laws for obtaining and renewing firearm IDs, regulate the sale of handgun ammunition, and allow the attorney general to bring lawsuits against gun manufacturers.

Two somewhat more uncontroversial bills, one to support a States for Gun Safety Summit and another to require more advance warning of school shooting drills, also passed with less fanfare. 

In most cases, the Democratic members of the committees voted in support, while Republicans voted against. Supporters of the bills, representing groups like Moms Demand Action, March for Our Lives, the Latino Action Network, and the Working Family Party, came to the committee hearings in droves, while a small number of opposed parties also gave testimony.

Among the most outspoken in opposition was lobbyist Rob Nixon, on behalf of the New Jersey Policeman’s Benevolent Association and the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, who said in the Judiciary Committee hearing that the bills were “gun bans” in disguise, designed to make buying and selling guns a functional impossibility.

While Democrats on the committees voiced concerns about some of the bills, they all ultimately agreed with the representatives of gun safety groups in the audience, and voted for the bills unanimously.

“Illegal trafficking of weapons has become a highly sophisticated business with a web of trails that cross state and country borders,” Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald (D-Voorhees) said of his bill to track ammunition sales. “We must be better at tracking ammunition sales. This begins with detail-specific electronic recordings of every ammunition purchase.”

Murphy, who has signed two previous gun safety legislation packages into law, said today that he believes this package’s passage would help the state further rein in gun violence.

“We have no issue with law-abiding Second Amendment folks – that’s not our objective,” Murphy said. “I think that the packages we’ve already seen passed, as well as this prospective package, all continue to get at making our state responsibly, sensibly, and reasonably the strongest gun safety state in America.”

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