(TRENTON) –To enhance gun safety in New Jersey, Assembly Democrats Joann Downey (D-Monmouth), Eric Houghtaling (D-Monmouth), and John McKeon (D-Essex, Morris) sponsor legislation approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee and the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Monday that would require safe storage of firearms. This year in New Jersey, there have been two unintentional shootings by children, one of which lead to the death of an 8-year-old.
“Individuals who often keep weapons loaded and easily accessible present a substantial safety issue,” said Downey. “It is important that people are able to own their firearm for protection, but the accidental firing of a gun can occur in a home when in the wrong hands. This should never happen again. We will continue to push for common-sense gun safety laws in New Jersey. This bill will require residents who own a firearm to take the necessary safety precautions when storing the weapon to avoid dangerous, and sometimes fatal accidents.”
The “New Jersey Safe Storage of Firearms Act” (bill A-5647) would establish penalties for improper storage of a firearm that results in access of the firearm by anyone other than the owner, require a warning to be issued to firearms purchasers, and require the Attorney General to establish a public awareness campaign regarding the risk associated with improper storage of a firearm. Under the bill, legal firearm owners would be required to store or secure an unloaded firearm in a gun safe or securely locked box or container, and store ammunition separately.
“It is clear that we can be doing more to keep families safe,” said Houghtaling. “When it comes to gun safety, there are many points where we can step in before a tragedy happens. Studies show that between 70 and 90% of guns used in youth suicides, unintentional shootings, and school shootings are from household firearms that are easily accessible. This measure is absolutely necessary to save lives and prevent tragedies from occurring.”
Additionally, the bill would appropriate $500,000 to fund a public awareness campaign to inform and educate the public about the requirements and penalties imposed under the bill, and the dangers associated with the presence of a loaded, unsecured firearm in the home.
“Storing firearms does not only keep your family safe and prevent young children from getting their hands on a gun, but it also ensures that other people are unable to steal them,” said McKeon. “Annually, around 380,000 guns are stolen from homes and vehicles, and many are often used to commit other, more serious crimes. It’s simple; securing our guns safely will keep our communities much safer and prevent armed robberies, kidnappings, and other violent acts from occurring.”
The bill now heads to the Speaker for further consideration.