NJ lawmakers advance 6 gun bills, including new restraining orders
TRENTON — At a five and a half hour hearing Wednesday during which gun owners and gun-control advocates traded turns at the microphones, a state Assembly committee started a half-dozen bills on a path toward a governor eager to sign them.
One of the bills would require firearms to be seized from people deemed by mental health professionals to pose a threat of harm, to themselves or others. Another would create new gun violence restraining orders through which family members could flag potential problems to police.
The Assembly Judiciary Committee also advanced bills requiring background checks for private gun sales, putting strict concealed-carry permit regulations into law, banning ammunition that can pierce body armor and limiting the size of ammunition magazines to 10 rounds.
“They’re not the end-all, be-all of what needs to be done, but simply a beginning,” said Red Bank resident Brett Sabo, New Jersey chapter leader for Moms Demand Action.
Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, D-Camden, said gun laws can be changed while protecting what he called the “cherished Second Amendment,” though gun owners said the bills would turn some guns into paperweights because of the 10-round ammunition capacity limits.
“What you guys are doing is targeting 1 million or so law-abiding, taxpaying citizens and making us all felons with one fell swoop, with zero compensation,” said Anthony Colandro, founder of the Gun for Hire shooting range in Woodland Park. “We are all going to be become criminals.”
Summit resident Tracy Keegan said comprehensive background checks at private gun sales are key to improving gun control.
Keegan described having a Glock pointed at her head 20 years ago in Hoboken by a mentally ill man who was then found by police to have more than a dozen guns in his apartment, bought at Midwest gun shows.
“The right to own a gun should not trump the right to live,” Keegan said. “Enacting common sense gun legislation isn’t going to ruin anyone’s life or kill anyone, but not enacting it might.”
Gun owners like Victoria Jakelsky of Kingwood said otherwise, arguing that limits on ammunition magazine sizes and concealed-carry leave people more vulnerable.
“There’s no person that has a passion to kill people that’s going to care one iota about these laws. They’re going to get a gun if they want a gun,” Jakelsky said. “The people that want to defend their families, defend the children, defend against evil should have a right."
The bills passed the committee with unanimous support from the committee’s five Democrats. Republican Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll voted against three bills, abstained on one and supported two, including a revised version of the firearms seizure directed by mental health professionals.
Gov. Phil Murphy told reporters Wednesday at the Statehouse that while he hasn't read the specific bills, conceptually they are "all in the direction we want to go."
Gun owners opposed to additional gun-control measures argued gun violence restraining orders and firearm seizure warrants could be abused – perhaps even by family members who use it to temporarily disarm a person and then cause them harm.
“Anyone who has gone through a divorce or a bad breakup knows how quite ugly this can be, much less a child custody battle,” said Toms River resident Scott Perry. “There is no provision in this bill for false accusations and no proof of imminent danger.”
A court-issued temporary protective order would remain in effect for up to 10 days, until a hearing before a Family Court judge at which it could be lifted or imposed for a full year.
“When someone puts an affidavit in to the police or to the court system, you’re guilty until proven innocent, which I think goes against our constitutional right,” said Roseland resident Joseph Rubino.
Badri Nittoor of Voorhees said the problem with the argument that gun control laws should only be applied to criminals is that none of the shooters at the Las Vegas concert or school massacres in Colorado, Connecticut and Florida had criminal records at they planned their attacks.
“These guys had one thing in common,” Nittoor said. “They had mental issues – they were depressed, they had anger management issues. And they had access, easy access, to weapons of war.”