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Assessing Gun-Control Legislation in New Jersey: A Moving Target

He also proposed changes in mental-health commitment procedures and more oversight of violent video games. Nothing has been introduced in the Legislature on the mental-health proposals; Assembly Republicans Sean T. Kean (Monmouth) and Holly Schepisi introduced bills (A-3987 and A-3988) on April 4, two weeks before the governor announced his antiviolence plan, that would require parental consent for minors to purchase games labeled Adult or Mature. The bills were referred to the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee.

The governor’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment on this story, but in an August 8 press release following the signing of 10 gun-related bills, he said the “commonsense measures will both strengthen New Jersey’s already tough gun laws and upgrade penalties for those who commit gun crimes and violate gun trafficking laws.”

In a separate release on August 16, he said he vetoed the .50-caliber ban because it was too broad.

“The bill passed by the legislature seeks to ban a firearm that has reportedly never been used in a crime in New Jersey,” he said. “It imposes criminal liabilities on all current owners of these firearms, including those who believed that they had properly registered their guns with law enforcement. This bill purports to curb gun violence, when in reality the overly broad classification of firearms it calls for banning are lawfully used by competitive marksmen for long-range precision shooting and are not used by criminal interests because of their size and cost, which averages over $10,000 per firearm.”

The Assembly has not scheduled a vote on an override of the .50-caliber ban, and it does not appear an override would be successful. The original bill passed with just 41 votes in the Assembly and 23 in the Senate; 54 Assembly and 27 Senate votes are needed for an override. Sweeney, in an email released through the Senate Democrats’ office, said he would not allow a vote on the rewritten ID bill and does not anticipate an override vote. The final bill passed the Senate with 23 votes and the Assembly with 43 votes.

"I really thought my centerpiece bill to reduce gun violence by overhauling the way New Jersey issues firearms ID cards, was a good bill,” Sweeney said. “The legislation, as written, had real substance and solutions but the governor’s conditional veto eliminated all the value.

“Because of the way it’s been chopped up, I’m not going to agree with the conditional veto. I know I’m not getting the votes for an override. I didn’t even have all the votes from my side. Unless I can craft a bill that he’ll sign, there’s no sense in pursuing an override.”

Gun-rights groups praised the governor and criticized the Senate president.

"After seven months of intense battle over misguided legislation that won't stop another crime or prevent another tragedy, we are grateful that Gov. Christie finally ended the discussion on the worst of the bills by tossing them onto the scrap heap where they belong,” Scott L. Bach, executive director of the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, said in an email. “The vetoes put gun-banning politicians on notice that exploiting tragedy to advance an agenda against legal gun owners, instead of punishing violent criminals, will not be entertained."

Frank Jack Fiamingo, president of the New Jersey Second Amendment Society, said New Jersey laws already were too strict and that they turn law-abiding gun owners into criminals.

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