N.J. Assembly committee OKs bills bolstering gun laws

Melissa Hayes Bergen Record

Two bills aimed at strengthening the state’s gun laws cleared an Assembly committee Monday.

One bill would add convictions for carjacking, racketeering and making terroristic threats to the list of prohibitions for purchasing a gun in the state. The other bill aims to protect domestic violence victims by requiring the alleged abuses to relinquish their fire arms when a restraining order if filed or if that person is convicted of a domestic violence offense. Both measures, sponsored by Democrats, were released by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

New Jersey has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. Governor Christie, who has been travelling the country as he considers a presidential bid, has blamed the state’s stringent laws on the Democratic-controlled legislature and has said at recent events that if Republicans controlled the Senate and Assembly he would try to change them.

The state already prohibits anyone convicted of aggravated assault, arson, burglary, homicide, kidnapping, robbery, sexual assault, stalking and bias intimidation and other serious crimes, from possessing a weapon. But Democrats sponsoring the bill say the list needs to be expanded.

“Guns can escalate an already bad situation,” said Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly, D-Paterson, in a statement. “Individuals who have been convicted of such violent crimes should not be trusted to be responsible gun owners.”

Under the bill anyone convicted of carjacking, gang criminality, racketeering and terroristic threat who owns or possesses a handgun would be guilty of a second degree crime, which caries a fine of up to $150,000 and a five- to 10-year prison term.

The bill is also sponsored by Assemblymen Tim Eustace, D-Maywood and Joe Danielsen, D-Somerset, and Assemblywomen Shavonda Sumter, D-Paterson, and Angelica Jimenez, D-West New York.

The other bill, aimed at protecting victims of domestic violence, would require an abuser’s firearms purchaser identification cards and permits to be suspended during a domestic violence restraining order and would have the documents revoked upon a conviction. The bill also requires cross-referencing of records to determine whether an alleged abuser owns a firearm, to help law enforcement ensure the person does not have access to that weapon.

“Fatal violence against women is most often domestic violence and the most common weapon used by men to kill women is a gun,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Englewood, in a statement. “This bill ensures that individuals who have shown a propensity for violence against women are prohibited from carrying guns and inflicting further damage to their victims.”

Huttle sponsored the bill along with Assemblywomen Gabriela Mosquera, D-Gloucester and Pamela Lampitt, D-Camden, and Assemblymen Joseph Lagana, D-Paramus, Lou Greenwald, D-Camden and Dan Benson, D-Mercer.

Email: hayes@northjersey.com