Regardless of where they stand on gun control, the audience in the packed Statehouse gallery witnessed a small piece of history yesterday, as Democratic leaders passed a package of 22 bills that impose new curbs on access to guns, as well as other gun-related legislation.
Many of the bills were approved with little or no Republican support in the Assembly. The package now heads to the Senate for passage.
At this point, the key question is what will Gov. Chris Christie do when the bills land on his desk. Last month, he created a bipartisan task force to look at the issue of gun violence and asked for a report within the coming month. If the task force meets its deadline, it would be within the 45 days Christie has to either veto or sign the legislation.
The measures range from tighter requirements for background checks; proof of safety training before purchasing a firearm; a reduction in the maximum capacity of ammunition magazines to 10 rounds; to a stipulation that ammunition sales and transfers be conducted face to face. One bill disqualifies certain people -- like those on the federal Terrorist Watchlist -- from buying guns. Another prohibits the state from investing in companies that manufacture, import, or sell assault weapons to civilians.
State Assemblyman Louis Greenwald (D-Camden), the Assembly’s majority leader, led the charge, and said he hoped that there would see some consensus with the Republicans, including Christie.
‘The Republican party has been all over the map,” said Greenwald in an interview. “They are worrying about the national agenda, but I hope the people see this is a balanced approach to addressing this.”
Republicans, however, say that for the most part the package needs further study. For instance, one of the bills (A-3754) is raising concerns among mental health professionals. It would require them to report to the attorney general any patient who is “likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to that patient or others.” The attorney general’s office would then check to see if the patient has any gun permits and, if he or she does, instruct the police to seize the weapons.