TRENTON – Like their Assembly counterparts did less than three months ago, Senate lawmakers joined the heated debate Tuesday over gun violence and Second Amendment rights.
Gun rights advocates and those in favor of tighter firearms restrictions again clashed during another round of Legislative hearings on a set of gun proposal bills. This time, senators heard from the public as the state’s upper chamber worked to pass a proposal that proponents say will make New Jersey a model for other states.
However, Second Amendment advocates argued the opposite, saying lawmakers are going too far and are limiting the rights of law-abiding citizens.
“I am a mom and there’s only one thing I’m afraid of, and that’s people in elected office taking away my rights,” said resident Nora Craig before the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.
“It’s not your job to protect me. It’s not your job to defend me,” she said. “It’s your job to protect the Constitution and to defend the right for me to protect myself.”
Craig was not alone in her anger.
Nearly 200 people came to the Statehouse to speak on the proposals. The majority of attendees opposed the bill package.
“Frankly, I’m embarrassed to admit living in New Jersey with such strict gun laws that trample our Constitution,” said Lawrence Maleszaski, a National Rifle Association member and a member of the New Jersey Second Amendment Society.
“This is such a hodgepodge of feel good, do-nothing legislation,” he said.
The Senate hearing comes just months after Assembly lawmakers passed nearly two dozen bills through a lengthy committee that drew hundreds to the Statehouse to oppose the proposals. The bills cleared a committee in a day and later passed on the Assembly floor.
Today’s hearing started about an hour after parents of children who were shot and killed in the Newtown school shooting came to the New Jersey Statehouse to urge lawmakers to support the reforms.
The Senate’s proposals, which were rolled out last week by Senate President Steve Sweeney, aim at improving gun laws in a state that already has the second toughest rules on the book in the nation, said Sweeney.
“Honestly, you’re never going to make both sides happy, but the idea was to do something meaningful,” he said while giving testimony. “New Jersey should stand out as an example to be followed.”