New Jersey lawmakers advance half-dozen gun control bills

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TRENTON -

New Jersey lawmakers advanced a half-dozen gun bills to tighten the state's already-strict firearms laws.

The Democrat-led Assembly Judiciary Committee approved the six measures on Wednesday during more than five hours of hearings in a packed room.

It was New Jersey's first legislative hearing on gun control since the Feb. 14 fatal high school shooting that left 17 dead in Florida.

“If it hasn’t happened here yet, it’s because we've been blessed,” says Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, who sponsored several of the bills. “It is incumbent upon us to act.”

The measures include bills to require the seizure of firearms when a mental health professional determines someone poses a threat. 

Another bill would tighten the regulations to receive a gun carry permit.

There was also a bill to ban ammunition that pierces body armor and magazine capacities over 10 rounds.

Another bill would require background checks for private gun sales.

This particular bill was called “pointless” by the president of the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs. Scott Bach says that no sale is allowed to take place in New Jersey without a permit or firearms ID card.

“You’re regulating the people who are not the problem,” he says. “We believe severe punishment is important. These are safety tools that people use to repel evil.”

Lawmakers heard from dozens of people supporting and opposing the legislation.

“Let’s say for example if Montana had a horrific car accident and 17 schoolchildren died because Montana had no speed limit laws. Does that mean we should change our laws because Montana screwed up?” asks Andy Wang, of Paramus.

But others say that they believe the new laws could help prevent a mass shooting from happening in New Jersey.

“In the process of doing that, we also become an inspiration and a model for the national legislation to also emerge,” says the Rev. Robert Moore.

Gov. Phil Murphy said he still has to review the measures but that "conceptually all of them are in the direction" he wants to go.

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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