Bills in Response to Six Shooting Deaths in Two-Year Period at New Jersey Facilities
Assemblyman Ralph R. Caputo will introduce two bills Thursday that would require anyone using a firearm at a firing range to present government-issued photo identification and proof that he or she is authorized to own or carry a firearm.
“Firing ranges provide novice recreational shooters and experienced professionals alike with a platform to develop their skills,” said Caputo (D-Essex). “However, while going to the range can be a fun and educational experience, recent fatal shootings at these facilities in New Jersey serve as stark reminders that, even in a controlled environment, it also can become tragic in the blink of an eye.”
The legislation is in response to a number of recent shootings at firing ranges in New Jersey. Earlier this year, two suicides took place on separate dates at Gun for Hire, a Woodland Park facility. The incidents followed a November 2015 suicide at RTSP in Randolph and a September 2015 suicide at the same location. In January 2015 and September 2014, two men killed themselves at Sure Shot Pistol Range in Lakewood.
“In a number of heartbreaking cases over the course of the last two years, one could conclude that individuals went to the range seeking access to a firearm,” said Caputo. “As morbid as it sounds, someone who is authorized to have a firearm and can access one elsewhere is far less likely to see the range as the place to get his or her hands on a gun and cause harm.”
Under current law, a legal owner or licensed dealer of firearms may transfer a firearm to another person at the range, even if the recipient is not authorized to own or carry a firearm. Consequently, many facilities allow unqualified patrons to rent a firearm with only photo identification.
The first bill would require an individual to possess and exhibit a firearms purchaser identification card, a permit to purchase a handgun or a permit to carry a handgun to the owner or operator of a firing range in order for a firearm to be transferred temporarily to him or her at the range (renting or borrowing), or for anyone to temporarily transfer (rent or lend) his or her firearm to someone else. The legislation thus would prohibit anyone who does not have a purchaser ID or a permit from borrowing another individual’s firearm for use while at a range or renting a firearm from the facility.
The second bill would require a gun owner to possess and exhibit a firearms purchaser identification card, a permit to purchase a handgun or a permit to carry a handgun in order to use his or her own firearm at a firing range. The legislation would further ensure that all firing range patrons in New Jersey have undergone a background check, which is required in order to be issued any of the aforementioned documents.
“Of course, safety is the top priority, but this also is a matter of better business practices. Car rental businesses require customers to present a valid driver’s license, which serves as proof that a renter knows how to drive and thus reduces the business’s risk of liability. Likewise, it’s in the best interest of a firing range to ensure that its patrons are qualified to use a firearm,” said Caputo. “In addition to decreasing the chances of tragedy or litigation for a facility, raising the standards for safety will provide peace of mind for patrons and attract clientele who may otherwise be deterred from going to a range.”
Under both bills, any individual shooting or lending their firearm at a range also would be required to provide proof of his or her identity in the form of a valid driver’s license or other government-issued photo identification.
Consistent with current law pertaining to minors handling firearms, the bill makes exceptions for the following parties: minors in the presence or under direct supervision of a parent or guardian who holds a firearms purchaser identification card or a permit to carry a handgun; minors engaging in a military drill; minors engaging in target practice, instruction, and training at a firing range; or minors hunting, provided they possess a valid hunting license and have completed a safety course.