TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie unveiled an extensive package of initiatives and legislation Friday to deal with gun violence in New Jersey.
The extensive package of proposals, building on the NJ Safe Task Force report issued earlier this month, would impose tougher penalties for possession of firearms by a felon, expand already stringent gun control measures, make mental health screening mandatory for those who need it most, make commitments easier for health care professionals and courts to achieve, and address the influence of violence on today’s youth by requiring parental consent for certain video games.
The measures would include banning the Barrett 50-caliber gun (used in such violent video games as Call of Duty), strengthen background checks, including that mental health records be included in such checks and require possession of a government-issued photo ID.
“If you’re really concerned about stopping gun violence, you need to keep the people who commit gun violence in jail,” Christie said in also calling for tougher bail restrictions.
“This is a conversation I believe our state and our country needs to have,’’ Chrisjie said in adding that he signed an executive order to establish a task force that will examine mental health-related issues such as encouraging people to seek treatment and reducing the stigma attached to it.
The 83-page report from the NJ Safe Task Force offered a series of some 50 recommendations for curbing violence in the state, some of which Christie offered today. The recommendations of the task force focused on several key areas including gun control, urban violence, mental illness, substance abuse, gun violence, violence in the media and school security.
Among other things, the report issued this month recommended seizure of weapons from a home where the arrested or committed person resides “unless the court is satisfied that adequate safeguards are in place to ensure that the person who has been arrested or is undergoing a civil commitment proceeding will not have access to the weapons.”
Among those who could see their weapons seized are anyone arrested for an indictable crime, or against whom a proceeding for involuntary civil commitment has been initiated, or for whom a mental health screening has been ordered.
Among the initiatives that Christie put forth today, those convicted of leading trafficking rings would be subject to a mandatory 25-year prison term without parole consideration.
Under his proposals, as part of video game purchases, retailers would have to post their policies and the industry rating system, and legal guardians would have to provide approval for purchases of games rated mature or for adults only.
Regarding mental health issues, Christie said it is important that background checks include mental health records, and that involuntary commitments should be easier to achieve.
He said the state needs to “eliminate the uncertainty of clinicians to order this (mental health) assistance.” He said he believes the standards for professionals and courts to obtain such treatment for an individual are too high, and he wants to reduce the paperwork and procedures to ensure people in need move more quickly through the system.
He said New Jersey already has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, but this package of proposals can address the “root causes’’ of violence including its presence in media, youths’ access to it, and the need for mental health treatment.
“The majority of these proposals are about law enforcement,’’ he said. “Bad people are going to do bad things.