A day after Gov. Chris Christie released the results of a task force study on violence, Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senator Donald Norcross and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg announced what they say is a comprehensive plan to protect against gun violence, including a new electronic system for instant background checks that will be a national model for gun safety. The multi-bill package will be introduced in the Senate on Monday.
“I worked with Majority Leader Weinberg and Law and Public Safety Chairman Norcross, as well as advocates on both sides of the discussion, to compile a package of bills that will serve as a national model on gun safety,” said Senate President Sweeney. “As we press ahead, I look forward to continuing this dialogue with all sides. At the end of the day we all want the same thing: to provide safety and protection for our friends and family. These bills will do just that, both through common-sense and new innovative measures.”
The centerpiece of the plan is legislation sponsored by Senate President Sweeney that will create an electronic system for instant background checks for the purchase of firearms including a photo ID for purchases. The bill also requires the immediate revocation of gun permits at criminal sentencing and for those ordered into involuntary commitment, prohibits the purchase or possession of ammunition by those with criminal convictions and requires safety training to obtain a firearms permit.
The new system combines the permits for handguns and hunting rifles into one, with the information encoded on the buyer’s driver’s license or state-issued identification card. The electronic process allows for instant background checks and real time reporting, immediately identifying those who aren’t allowed to purchase firearms.
Other bills in the package will ban the Barrett .50 caliber rifle, crack down on straw purchases, prohibit gun sales to those on the federal “no fly” list, upgrade penalties for illegal gun trafficking, address mental health issues and study ways to improve school safety.
“These bills will crack down on the illegal trafficking of guns that end up in the hands of criminals and contribute to the epidemic of street violence,” said Senator Donald Norcross, the sponsor of legislation that would set tougher penalties for gun trafficking and create a study commission on school security. “We have to do what we can to keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals, to make our streets safer and our schools more secure.”
The bills would also prevent convicted gun traffickers from being eligible for early release from prison, confiscate motor vehicles used to illegally transport guns and impose stricter penalties for the unlawful possession of a firearm on school grounds.
“We have witnessed too many tragic cases of gun violence that have taken too many lives,” said Senate Majority Leader Weinberg. “We won’t surrender to this senseless violence. This is a comprehensive plan that goes after many of the factors that contribute to a level of violence that can’t be ignored and shouldn’t be allowed.”
The centerpiece of the package would:
- Establish an electronic system of instant background checks for gun retailers, combining the separate permits for handguns and hunting weapons into one. The system would use motor vehicle licenses or state-issued ID cards encoded with the buyer’s firearms ID information in the database operated by the State Police for permits for handguns and hunting rifles;
- Require a photograph on the ID;
- Require safety training to qualify for firearms permit;
- Criminalize the purchase and possession of ammunition by those convicted of certain crimes;
- Require a valid firearms ID for the purchase of ammunition; and,
- Mandate the revocation of gun permits at sentencing for those convicted of a crime and for those ordered into involuntary commitment.
Among the bills in the package are legislation that would:
- Disqualify those on the federal “no fly” list from eligibility for gun permits;
- Ban the sale of the .50 caliber Barrett assault weapon;
- Upgrade penalties for the unlawful possession of a firearm on school grounds;
- Upgrade penalties for gun dealers who knowingly sell to those who intend to transfer the weapon to an ineligible person, helping to combat straw sales that allow criminals to get weapons;
- Allow for the seizure and forfeiture of motor vehicles used in the illegal trafficking of firearms, disqualify gun traffickers from early release from prison and require they serve at least 85 percent of terms before parole;
- Establish a School Security Task Force to find ways to make schools safe and secure;
- Declare violence a health crisis, which could qualify for federal funds; Create a commission to study violence and mental health;
- Prohibit state investments in companies that manufacture, import or sell assault rifles for civilian use;
- Exempt firearms records from the Open Public Records Act. Allow for reporting of aggregate information on gun permits approved or denied but not any personal identifying information; and,
- Change from second-degree to third-degree the crime of unlawful purpose when the weapon is a BB gun.