(Trenton) – Legislation today that would authorize municipalities to adopt weapons free zones around schools, day care centers, public housing facilities, and public buildings, such as libraries and museums and public parks was approved Thursday by the Assembly. This measure is one of numerous bills in a sweeping Assembly Democratic gun violence prevention bill package.
The sponsors, Assembly Democrats Gilbert “Whip” Wilson and Gordon Johnson, note the legislation is an effort to put in place stronger safeguards for children and New Jersey’s communities.
“This legislation would help create a community safe haven around schools, day cares, in parks and libraries,” said Wilson (Camden, Gloucester). “A weapons free school zone would support this idea. Municipalities, with higher fines and stronger punishments, would be better able to ensure protection of our children and the surrounding communities.”
Under the bill’s (A-1387) provisions, the governing body of any municipality is permitted to adopt an ordinance establishing weapons free school zones. The zones would encompass the areas within 1000 feet of a school, college or university building or facility; and 500 feet of a day care, public housing facility or public building. The zones would include school buses.
“As with drugs, illegal weapons have no place in the proximity of children,” said Johnson (D- Bergen. “A weapons free school zone will designate these areas as safe spaces and allow us to more effectively hold defendants accountable and potentially serve as a deterrent for those engaged trafficking of illegal weapons.”
The bill would direct that anyone who unlawfully possesses a firearm within one of these zones is subject to a fine of up to $1000, 90 days of imprisonment, or both.
In 1990, Congress passed and the president signed the Gun-Free School Zones Act (GFSZA). The law directs school districts to develop policies to keep students and staff safe from guns and other dangerous weapons. A conviction under the GFSZA will cause an individual to become a “prohibited person” under the Gun Control Act of 1968. This will bar them from legally owning firearms for the rest of their life.
The Assembly Democratic gun violence prevention package was proposed in response to the national call for effective legislative action that will help curb the long-standing issue of gun violence occurring in New Jersey’s communities.
The measure passed 48-24-3 and it now goes to the Senate for further consideration.