New Jersey would mandate safety courses in order to get a gun permit, require lockboxes for out-of-use firearms and change state law to hold firearm makers liable for harm stemming from gun use, among other changes proposed in the dozen new gun control measures proposed by Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy.
Murphy proposed the election-year agenda in Newark, the state’s largest city, during a more than an hourlong, rally-like event in a crowded community center. The Democrat-led Legislature will have to weigh in on most of the measures, and in a sign of legislative support, influential state lawmakers like state Sen. Teresa Ruiz and Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald attended the event and spoke.
Newark-native Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver’s voice cracked as she lamented the gun violence that has disproportionately affected cities. Half of the state’s deaths from guns last year came in just five cities, according to Murphy.
“We are tired of funerals and memorials,” Oliver said. “Growing up in Newark, I tell young people I could go to any section of this city by myself or with my friends. Our young people cannot do that today."
Anticipating political pushback, Murphy rejected the idea of not enacting more gun control laws because New Jersey already has strict firearm safety measures in place.
“Just because we’ve got among the strongest gun safety laws in the nation does not mean they can’t be stronger and that’s why we’re here today,” he said.
The proposals come after shootings again made headlines across the country, including in Colorado and Georgia, and after President Joe Biden ordered a series of gun control measures.
Murphy said the new proposals didn’t stem from what was going on in other states, but the recent shootings have ``further emboldened us without question.’’
Having a ‘voice in the discussion’
The proposals were embraced by local advocates, as well as groups with national footprints, like Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, whose red T-shirt-clad supporters applauded at the rally.
Sharon Redding, a volunteer with the Newark Community Street Team, said she lost two nephews to gun violence, one in 2009 and another in 2017. Her son, she said, was wounded by gunfire in 2017.
She said the fact that the governor came to Newark showed that people like her have a “seat at the table’” and a “voice in the discussion.”
“I’m a Newark resident all my life. South ward all my life. Even with all that’s going on around us, this is a day to celebrate, a day of light in a season of darkness,” Redding said.
The ‘micro-management’ of law-abiding gun owners
Second Amendment rights groups have had little luck gaining traction against Murphy’s push for stricter gun control, which included a half-dozen new measures signed into law in 2018. The laws lowered the limit on the number of rounds allowed in a magazine from 15 to 10 and included a red-flag law, among other provisions.
Scott Bach, the executive director of the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs, opposed those changes, and decried the new proposals as well, saying they amount to the “micro-management” of law-abiding gun owners.
Murphy is running for reelection this year. New Jersey and Virginia are the only other two states with gubernatorial elections in the fall.