Senate President Steve Sweeney today pushed back against critics of the gun control package introduced in the upper chamber, saying the current restriction on the size of a weapon’s ammunition clip is “effective” and the state must now concentrate on keeping guns out of the hands of the wrong people.
“20 years ago New Jersey implemented a limit on the size of ammunition clips. For two decades that limit has been effective. What we must focus on now is preventing guns from getting into the hands of those who should not have them. That means addressing issues of mental health, background checks, illegal guns, and straw purchases,” Sweeney said.
“The package of bills the Senate is putting forward will be a national model that addresses the most difficult gun issues facing our state. It will surpass that of Colorado, which President Obama recently recognized as having provided a model to the nation on gun laws. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Legislature and the governor to make New Jersey’s already tough gun laws that much tougher.”
The statement comes as parents of the victims of last year’s Newtown, Conn. school shootings met with New Jersey lawmakers to push for tougher gun control. The Senate last week did not include a clip restriction in its package of bills, setting off internal strife with Assembly members including Speaker Sheila Oliver and Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, who introduced a 10-round restriction in the Assembly.
Some advocates of gun control said they might back away from the Senate bills if the restriction was not included.
The state currently restricts magazines larger than 15 rounds, but gun control advocates say it’s not enough and point to instances where shootings were halted when the shooter stopped to reload. Fewer rounds means more frequent reloads and more opportunity for a shooter to be stopped, they argue.
“If he had to reload three times instead of one time, there would have been more lives [saved],” said Neil Heslin, referring to the Connecticut shooter who killed his son and dozens of others at Sandy Hook Elementary School. “Probably my son Jesse would have been alive today. It’s something I don’t wish upon any person or any family to ever have to deal with.”
Soon after meeting with the families of the Newtown victims, Greenwald issued a statement again calling for the restriction.
“It is time to pass common sense laws to prevent gun violence here in New Jersey – including cracking down on high-capacity magazines,” he said. “We owe these families and the thousands of New Jersey families that have been devastated by gun violence nothing less.”
Oliver also issued a statement this morning, renewing her call for the clip restriction.
Referencing the shootings in Newtown, Conn., and in Tucson, Ariz., she said that “Both times the shooter was reportedly prevented from claiming even more lives when heroes stepped forward to stop them while they attempted to reload.
“Those that want to argue that there’s no difference between a 10- and 15-clip magazine should ask the five extra families that have an empty space in their home and their hearts where a child or loved one once was,” she said.