NJ’s New Gun Laws: Higher Fees, Easier to Confiscate
Six new gun-control laws were enacted Wednesday, including smaller ammunition magazine limits and new "red flag" laws designed to take guns from people deemed dangerous.
Though New Jersey has among the nation’s most restrictive gun-control systems, most Democrats have been pushing for years to enact more, particularly in response to school shootings.
Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, D-Camden, recalled a Statehouse meeting he had in April 2013 with Connecticut parents whose children were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The cut in the maximum ammunition magazine, from 15 to 10 rounds, is one proposal that those parents emphasized.
“We made a commitment to them on that day that we would get this package of legislation done. I am embarrassed that it has taken us this long,” Greenwald said.
Gov. Phil Murphy said there’s more to do, though some of his proposals might not make it into his budget as planned.
Murphy is seeking higher fees for gun licenses and handgun permits. Democratic legislative leaders are resisting Murphy’s plan to raise a variety of gun-related fees by $1.4 million. The governor said they haven’t explained why.
“It’s long past time we did this. The last time these fees were increased was 1966,” Murphy said.
“It’s hard to believe that it’s actually cheaper to get a permit to purchase a handgun, which is $2, than it is to get a dog license in practically any town in our state,” Murphy said.
The $1.4 million fee increase was initially included in the budget as a firearms sales tax, which is how Murphy pitched the idea as a candidate.
At the ceremony in the Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex, the package of new laws was frequently framed as an effort to stop school shootings.
Sen. Linda Greenstein, D-Middlesex, said 215,000 students have been exposed to gun violence in American schools since a massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999. She said students should be having the time of their lives, not routinely practicing active shooter drills.
“We’ve seen the marches demanding common-sense protections in Washington, D.C., here in New Jersey and coast to coast, and New Jersey is now responding loud and clear,” Greenstein said.
Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, said she has been working on gun-control legislation since her first days in the Legislature in 1992.
“So it’s been a long battle, and it’s a battle that most of the time I have not had hope about,” she said.
Weinberg said she has hope now because teens have gotten politically active on the issue. Among them is Toms River High School North junior Zach Dougherty, who calls himself “a member of the lockdown generation” and founder of Students Demand Action New Jersey.
“I’m a member of a generation who is sick and tired of watching children our own age be senselessly murdered and then to live with the fear that we could be next,” Dougherty said.
They were joined in Trenton on Wednesday by Alfonso Calderón, who survived the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 were killed.
Calderón said change is needed.
“Change is fundamental to life. We must adapt. We must change to survive,” Calderón said. “And I can tell you right now, the majority of America’s youth knows we need this change to survive in our own schools.”