Building upon the momentum set by the Legislature with the passage of several bills aimed at stemming gun violence in New Jersey communities, a legislative package, sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, Assembly Democrats Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, Yvonne Lopez and Gordon Johnson, to address the sale and transfer of firearms, straw purchasing, and gun trafficking in the state was approved by the full Assembly Thursday.
“Since the tragedy in Sandy Hook, we have revised our laws in New Jersey, restricting large capacity weapons and ghost guns from getting into the wrong hands, to reduce the scourge of gun violence plaguing our cities,” said Greenwald (D-Camden, Burlington). “To address the mental health aspect of gun violence, we engaged our community and hospital partners to help victims and their families work through their trauma and break the cycle of violence. These new bills will ensure that law enforcement, state entities, and gun store owners will work together to reduce gun crimes and gun trafficking in our communities.”
Greenwald also said the two high-profile shooting incidents in Trenton that killed one and wounded fifteen over Memorial Day weekend underscore the desperate need to address these issues in New Jersey communities by continuing to enact common sense legislation.
According to a recent NJGUNSTAT Report, 83% of guns recovered at crime scenes in New Jersey during the first quarter of 2019 were originally purchased out of state. Nearly 350 identified crime guns were recovered; most of these firearms were purchased in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, and Ohio.
“More than a thousand New Jersey residents are shot every year,” said Assemblywoman Reynolds-Jackson (D-Mercer, Hunterdon). “By requiring gun owners to have firearm IDs, we will be able to find out how these guns are getting into the hands of criminals by tracking each gun and all ammo to the point of sale.”
Straw purchasing occurs when an individual buys a gun for a person who cannot legally purchase, own, or who intends to use that gun for unlawful purposes. This practice plays a major role in illegal gun trafficking activity in New Jersey.
“We know that we must close gun trafficking loopholes and crack down on straw purchasing in order to effectively fight gun violence in this state,” said Assemblywoman Lopez (D-Middlesex). “With this legislation, we will provide law enforcement and our judicial system the tools they need to prosecute criminals involved in these illegal businesses to the fullest extent of the law.”
The four-part legislative package includes the following bills:
- A-5455 Requires ammunition sales to be reported and mandates development of an electronic system for firearm information. (Greenwald, Johnson, Reynolds-Jackson); passed 52-16-5.
- A-5454 Criminalizes the purchase, transfer, or possession of certain weapons and ammunition by persons convicted of certain crimes. The bill adds to the current list of crimes barring an individual from owning a firearm or ammunition and establishes a 3rd degree crime of transporting, shipping, selling, disposing of or possession a firearm without a federally licensed and registered serial number. (Greenwald, Reynolds-Jackson); passed 58-10-9.
- A-5453 Establishes criminal penalties for the possession and transfer of firearms and ammunition to a person disqualified to own a firearm or permit under state law. (Lopez, Greenwald, Johnson); passed 58-10-7.
- A-5452 Provides that firearms purchasing identification is valid for four years, requires training prior to I.D. and handgun purchase permits, and revises procedures for passing of firearms to an heir. (Reynolds-Jackson, Johnson, Greenwald), passed 43-24-5.
“Purchasing a firearm or ammunition and giving it to a person who is unqualified to own a gun or ammo because of a prior criminal conviction or a history of mental illness puts our communities in danger,” said Assemblyman Johnson (D-Bergen). “These bills will augment law enforcement’s efforts to keep firearms out of the hands of individuals who should not have them.”
This new legislation was developed alongside the Administration’s efforts in March to raise awareness of gun crimes in the state.