TRENTON – The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee released more gun control bills Thursday, wrapping up a hearing in which votes often fell along party lines, but with Democrat Sen. Jeff Van Drew sometimes siding with Republican senators in opposition.
The panel released bills dealing with vehicle impoundment, identification cards, and increased penalties for traffickers.
A2468: Authorizes impoundment of motor vehicles for certain crimes and offenses, including if a weapon was illegally possessed, the vehicle was used in buying or selling drugs, or it was used in the commission of prostitution.
Scott Bach, executive director of the N.J. Association of Rifle and Pistol Clubs, said that his organization opposes vehicle seizure for unlawful weapons possession, in part, as an example of the incremental encroachment on legal firearms ownership.
He said people are arrested often for “hyper-technical violations” of this kind of law.
He said they have no problem with vehicle seizures for prostitution or other crimes, but he was concerned, among other things, about unclear wording in the bill involving handgun possession, which he said Van Drew is seeking to address with his own legislation.
“This has the potential to be a good bill,’’ Van Drew said. He said that if a driver goes directly from home to a shooting range and keeps the ammunition separate from the properly stored weapon while en route, they are in compliance. But if they happen to deviate from their course, for example, to go to use a bathroom, or go visit someone, they can be in violation.
As a result, the committee amended the bill, and it passed unanimously.
S2719: This bill enhances the penalties for certain firearms offenses.
Among other things, firearms traffickers would be subject to the No Early Release Act, dealers could face permanent license revocation for selling “an inordinate” number of illegal firearms, and dealers who sell a gun to someone they know will transfer it to a person not allowed to possess a firearm would face a mandatory prison term of at least 18 months.
It was released unanimously.
S2723/A3772: This revises laws concerning firearms purchaser ID cards, and makes permits valid for up to four years but they can be “turned off’’ at any point for violations.
The bill passed 7-6 with opposition from Republicans and Van Drew.
Right now, a permit is supposed to be issued within 30 days but in reality can take more than 90 days to receive, and it has to be renewed every 90 days.
Under this bill, a permit could last up to four years, but it could be revoked immediately at any point due to instantaneous background checks, said Senate President Steve Sweeney.
Scott Bach, executive director of the N.J. Association of Rifle and Pistol Clubs, opposed the bill, asking what problem would it solve. Rather, he said, its provisions regarding mandatory firearms training only create more bureaucracy, delay, fees and hurdles affecting law-abiding residents.
In addition, he raised constitutionality and privacy questions regarding aspects that would allow the state to have the permit information embedded in driver’s licenses.
“There are a few drops of sugar in a goblet full of poison,’’ he said in comparing some of the things in the bill he supports – such as streamlining the lengthy application process – with the many things in it he opposes.
Sweeney, subbing on the committee today for Sen. Teresa Ruiz, said the bill provides for an immediate “background’’ check that in part, addresses concerns of prohibiting firearms purchases by people identified with mental health issues.
Sweeney also said portions of the bill assessing mandatory minimum terms for violations were taken out, but he said a bill addressing mandatory minimum sentences will be forthcoming later.
Ceasefire NJ and Heeding God’s Call, a coalition of organizations opposed to gun violence, both supported the bill.
Sweeney said this bill would accomplish what the lawmakers in Washington, D.C., couldn’t, and that it would become a national model regarding instant background checks, saving lives, protecting rights of gun owners, yet keeping them out of the hands of criminals.