Bill would Eliminate Presumption of Non-Imprisonment for First-Time Stolen Weapon Offenders
(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Reed Gusciora and Verlina Reynolds Jackson (both D-Mercer/Middlesex) to remove the presumption of non-imprisonment for first-time stolen weapons offenders was approved Saturday by the General Assembly.
Gusciora reintroduced the bill following the shooting at the Art All Night festival in Trenton earlier this month, which left one person dead and more than 20 people injured. According to law enforcement, one of the weapons used in the shooting was a gun stolen during a 2014 burglary.
The bill is Gusciora’s last in the Assembly. He will step down as the 15th district legislative representative at the end of today’s voting session to assume the role of mayor of Trenton.
“What happened at Art All Night is tragic. An event that brought people from all over the tristate area to Trenton to celebrate the arts, creativity and community was marred by gun violence perpetuated by individuals who were there for the wrong reasons,” said Gusciora. “What’s even more tragic is that for many residents in Trenton and other communities around the country, this is a recurrent problem. These families and the children they are raising deserve better.”
“Under this bill, individuals convicted of a stolen weapons charge will not be eligible for parole, and will instead head straight to prison,” he added. “This alone will not solve the gun problem, but coupled with other existing measures, can help serve as a deterrent against gun violence.”
“Art All Night represented the best of Trenton. For more than a decade it brought different people together without incident. In one night, all that was taken away,” said Reynolds-Jackson. “Sadly, for many people in our community, the threat of gun violence is a constant reality. We have to be real: individuals who steal weapons don’t have good intentions. We need to do more to keep guns away from bad people. If you have stolen a gun, you should not have the option of probation.”
The bill (A-4258) would provide that the presumption of non-imprisonment for certain third and fourth degree crimes does not apply to a person convicted of theft of a firearm.
Theft of a firearm is a third degree crime which is punishable by a fine of up to $15,000, a term of imprisonment of three to five years, or both. Current law provides a presumption of non-imprisonment for most first-time offenders of third and fourth degree crimes. Accordingly, a first-time offender is typically sentenced to a term of probation, rather than a term of imprisonment upon conviction. This bill would include theft of a firearm to the list of crimes exempt from this presumption.
The bill was approved 74-0 by the Assembly and now awaits further consideration by the Senate.