The full Assembly approved A-2426 on Thursday (49-29-0), a bill sponsored to combat gun violence in communities. Assembly Democrats Benjie E. Wimberly, Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, and Gary Schaer are the sponsors of the legislation.
The bill (A-2426) would establish a rebuttable presumption that a defendant subject to a mandatory prison term for a firearm-related crime under the “Graves Act” is to be detained prior to trial.
“Almost daily in New Jersey, communities witness family members, neighbors, and friends lose their lives to senseless gun violence,” said Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic). “We must provide law enforcement and prosecutors with the tools necessary to deter violent gun crimes on our streets. The bill’s passage today signifies the first step in this process and moves toward safer communities for New Jersey families.”
“We are looking at a steep rise in violent crimes in communities across the state. We see right here in the City of Trenton,” said Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D-Mercer, Hunterdon). “We must all work together in creating safer communities for the families and children who live there. This legislation helps us reach that goal.”
“Gun violence is a public health crisis that has taken its toll on many cities across the United States, including in New Jersey,” said Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Bergen, Passaic). “With this legislation, we take one more step toward ending senseless violence in our communities.”
Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, New Jersey mayors, and law enforcement expressed their support of the bill’s passage today:
“I commend Speaker Pro Tempore Wimberly for his efforts to address the concerns of communities disproportionately victimized by the scourge of gun violence,” said Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “Working with urban mayors throughout the state, the legislation takes a thoughtful approach in response to those who would seek to cause harm.”
“Our members can’t understand why they put their lives on the line to protect communities from violent people with guns, only to see those people back on the streets a few days later. It is beyond demoralizing for law enforcement officers,” said Robert W. Fox, President of New Jersey State Fraternal Order of Police. “That’s why we support this common-sense reform to our bail laws, and we commend Assemblyman Wimberly for working with all sides to make this a bill that will help us protect the public.”
“On January 19, 2022, an 18-year old was helping his grandmother with groceries in Paterson when he was tragically caught in a crossfire and lost his life. Paterson, like cities across the country, is facing unprecedented gun violence. We must act now,” Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh. “I thank Assemblyman Wimberly for spearheading A-2426 and Speaker Coughlin for posting the bill for a vote. This bill is one of many tools we can use to make our cities and our state safer.”
“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, communities nationwide have experienced an uptick in violence at record-breaking rates. In the state’s largest city, gun violence in Newark for 2021 resulted in 352 people being shot in 283 incidents of whom 50 are now deceased, including a 17-year-old boy. This toll is far too high and it is heart-wrenching to learn of a person’s death from gun violence that could have been prevented,” said Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka, who is also President and Chair of the New Jersey Urban Mayors Association. “A-2426 will prohibit the release of individuals who use a gun to commit violent crimes and help keep them off our city’s streets, making Newark and NJ communities safer for all. I thank the Assembly sponsors for their hard work on this critical piece of legislation, and hope that this passage drives the Senate to take collective action on their version of this life-saving bill.”
“I voted for bail reform as a member of the Assembly because pretrial freedom shouldn’t be reserved for the wealthy,” said Trenton Mayor W. Reed Gusciora. “But we’ve seen unintended consequences from this legislation, and it’s time to address that blindspot to protect the public from violent crime. This bill ensures that anyone perpetrating a crime with a weapon will remain in jail until trial. That’s the cost of carrying a gun illegally in the State of New Jersey, as well as the Capital City.”
“This proposed reform bill provides a critical tool to make Roselle’s streets even safer,” said Roselle Mayor Donald Shaw. “Such legislation would give our community a vital tool to keep violent criminals away from our neighborhoods, as we continue to undergo an economic renaissance. This is a solid law for Roselle, as well as other municipalities across New Jersey who are focused on preserving and enhancing public safety.”
“When there is an uptick in crime, this is a problem for any city and its surrounding neighbors. We want to make sure there are amendments to bail reform so that criminals, specifically with weapon offenses, are not released and therefore held pending trial,” said Mayor Ted R. Green of East Orange. “A better city is a safer city and those who commit weapons offenses should not be allowed to walk out of jail after a day or two. This is not fair to the residents and stakeholders of any community. I support bill A2426.”
“Clearly, there is a need for bail reform in an effort to keep dangerous individuals and guns off the streets; however the reform cannot in any way take us back to the days of mandatory minimums that negatively impacted black and brown families. I fully support the need for additional bail reform but it must be done in a balanced way with great care and sensitivity,” said Mayor Adrian O. Mapp of Plainfield, Vice-President of the New Jersey Urban Mayors Association.