Watson Coleman, advocates call on Christie to sign gun-control bills

TRENTON – Assembly Democrats and gun-control advocates called Wednesday for the governor to sign four firearms measures.

The bills on Gov. Chris Christie’s desk would increase penalties, background checks and the use of databases to track firearms.

Fifteenth District Assembly member Bonnie Watson Coleman – who represents Trenton – as well as several advocates from organizations such as Million Mom March, Heeding God’s Call and Coalition for Peace Action pointed to the escalating gun violence in the capital city as evidence of how much gun control legislation is needed.

Gun violence knows no borders – 80 percent of weapons seized in crimes in New Jersey came from out-of-state, advocates said – but for Coleman the issue resonates in Trenton, which has laid off more than 100 police officers but which has to protect 80,000 residents as well as the influx of state workers daily. The city already has seen 22 murders so far this year.

“He should sign these bills on behalf of the citizens of New Jersey. These are no-brainers,’’ Coleman said of the four bills.

In addition, she called on the state to provide more state police assistance as well as provide more job-training programs.

“Give it to them in a form that is usable, not in the form of extra bureaucracy. You can’t hire, fire, spend or move in the city of Trenton without getting permission from the state of New Jersey.’’

Bryan Miller, executive director of Heeding God’s Call and former head of Ceasefire New Jersey, talked of a recent gun fight captured on tape outside a Trenton convenience store as indicative how commonplace such violence has become. “This is crazy,” he said.

Miller said that one bill, A3797, would help stem that tide by providing to the public the data on gun flow. “This is critical safety information,’’ he said, “to be able to know where guns are coming from. The gun lobby doesn’t want anybody to know that information.”

However, he is realistic about the prospect of the bills being signed.

“It depends on how important running for president is,’’ Miller said.  “If it is, he’s likely to veto them.  If the governor’s real goal is to be concerned with the interests of the people of New Jersey there is no reason not to sign them all.”

The bills awaiting gubernatorial action:

A3797: Requires law enforcement to report firearms information to interjurisdictional electronic databases, including the NIBIN.  Also requires State Police to report firearms trace data for use in Uniform Crime Report.

S2468: Clarifies that motor vehicles used in firearms trafficking are subject to seizure and forfeiture. 

S2719: Upgrades penalty on licensed dealers for knowingly selling to someone who intends to transfer a firearm to an ineligible person (straw purchase).

S2723: Will require a current background check be conducted by a federally licensed dealer for nearly all private sales, and require all online ammo purchase info to be reported electronically in real-time. It also will require a Firearm ID (for long-gun ammo) and PPH (for handgun ammo) for all ammo purchases.

Underscoring the wide differences of opinion on these issues are the votes themselves.

A3797 and S2723 – the bills dealing with background checks and tracking of firearms – passed largely along party lines with Republicans in opposition.

S2468 and S2719 passed with bipartisan support.

In addition to Coleman, others calling for action included her 15th District-mate Reed Gusciora and New Jerseyans for Safety from Gun Violence.

Watson Coleman, advocates call on Christie to sign gun-control bills