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

“There is actually no ability to exercise the right to keep and bear arms in the state of New Jersey,” he said in an email. “Anyone who tells you differently is misinformed. The Second Amendment to the Constitution protects the rights of individuals to both keep and bear arms, yet in NJ here is no ability to exercise the right to bear arms at all. The exercise of that right is banned. Therefore, New Jersey is not in compliance with the highest law of the land -- the United States Constitution.”

The registration process, he said, is already very detailed and lengthy and that applying for permit to carry requires you to prove “justifiable need,” which he says is too high of a standard.

”In the courts of New Jersey, justifiable need has been misinterpreted as requiring an imminent threat to your life,” he said. “Self-defense, or protection of your family while traveling is not sufficient reason. A family traveling through cities like Newark, Trenton, Camden, Elizabeth, Linden, and so on, have no protection against carjacking or kidnapping except for dialing 911 on the cellphone the criminals just stole.”

His organization is committed to removing Sweeney from office and to replacing him “with a leader who understands basic human rights.”

Gun-control groups said the bills that have been signed are good bills, for the most part, but they say the three most important bills remain in limbo: The .50-caliber ban, the omnibus ID bill and the lower cap on magazine rounds.

“The governor, himself, proposed the .50-caliber ban in his plan in April, It is extraordinary weapon that is incredibly lethal,” said Nicola Bosour, director of Ceasefire NJ. “To me it is an unconscionable choice to allow those to be bought and sold in New Jersey.”

She called the lower cap on magazine “vitally important,” and said Ceasefire was “disappointed that the Senate did not act on that one.”

The magazine cap -- Assembly bill A-1329 -- passed the Assembly 45-30. The Senate version, S-2475, sponsored by Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) and Nia Gill (D-Essex), was referred to the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee and has not been considered because it is opposed by Sweeney, who as Senate president controls the flow of legislation in the upper house.

A similar bill, S-2630, introduced in the Senate by then-Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex) and Joseph Vitale (D-Woodbridge), also was referred to the Law and Public Safety Committee.

Bocour said the governor’s vetoes show that he is looking ahead to the 2016 presidential race and focusing on “the gun industry’s money.”

Redlawsk of Eagleton said he thought the governor’s political team, if not the governor himself, is probably looking ahead to a potential presidential run. That is why the governor has tried to straddle the line on the gun issue. He has to consider the national Republican base, which is very much pro-gun rights, while also acknowledging that New Jersey has been a heavily Democratic state in recent years.

“In Christie’s case, in particular, when think of a Republican governor in New Jersey, he has to be careful not to be viewed as right wing,” he said. “But the folks who are most concerned about gun control are not voting for Christie anyway. It is a smaller group on the gun control side that is voting because of that. It frees him up to take positions with little risk and he can placate the base that he absolutely needs.”

Christie, for his part, describes his efforts as the responsible approach to gun violence, as he did in a September 20 press release announcing the signing of bill A-3797. The bill, which he conditionally vetoed in August, codifies reporting requirements for recovered firearms.

“I’m glad the Legislature acted swiftly to incorporate my commonsense changes so that I can sign this bill and responsibly strengthen New Jersey’s already-tough gun laws,” he said. “This new law will help state and federal law enforcement officials stop guns from getting into the hands of criminals, and help maintain public safety.”

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