TRENTON – Senate lawmakers returned to the table Thursday to debate the second round of a gun proposal package making its way through the upper chamber.
A scaled-back version of opponents and advocates of the gun package appeared before the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee to debate gun violence and Second Amendment rights. The hearing is focusing on about a half dozen gun bills that were part of a larger proposal rolled out last week by Senate President Steve Sweeney.
The toned-down hearing comes after Tuesday’s heated discussion that drew hundreds to the Statehouse to voice their concerns. The majority of people who packed the committee hearing and sent attendees into an overflow room spoke in opposition to the gun package.
The roughly 50 people who attended today’s hearing – compared to the at least 200 who came earlier this week – affirmed their positions on the larger issue.
Second Amendments advocates have long argued state lawmakers are moving in a direction that violates residents’ constitutional rights to keep and bear arms. Supporters of the Legislature’s proposals say lawmakers are moving in the right direction, arguing New Jersey has the opportunity to be a leader in the nation for “common sense” reforms.
A bill that drew a lot of discussion during the hearing was one that would ban certain .50-caliber firearms in the state – specifically the .50-caliber Barrett rifle.
“They are incredibly powerful and they have incredible range,” said Bryan Miller, executive director of Heeding God’s Call, a faith-based group that’s leading the charge in supporting the gun reform proposals.
“They are the perfect domestic terrorist weapon,” he said, adding “one man, with one of these guns and 45 seconds,” could wreak havoc on refineries and chemical plants in the state.
“There has not ever been an incident in New Jersey with [a Barrett rifle],” countered Scott Bach, executive director of the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs.
“The claims made about this firearm are widely exaggerated,” he said. “The notion that if we take away this one tool that we’re somehow safer is false.”
The Barrett ban is supported in both houses and is also part of Gov. Chris Christie’s gun and violence proposal the governor recently unveiled.