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Legislators squabble over guns
Written by Stan Gendlin/HardNewsNJ staff   
Monday, 23 February 2009 19:51

TRENTON - A bill aimed at stemming gun violence in New Jersey by limiting buyers to one handgun purchase per month fell short of passage in the state Senate today when Republicans failed to offer a single vote in support.

Sponsored by Sen. Sandra Bolden Cunningham (D-Hudson) and Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), the bill (A-339/S-1774) fell just one vote short of passage.  Cunningham asked that the bill be held over with the vote total standing at 20-18, with two not voting. A bill requires 21 votes for passage in the Senate.

“I couldn’t be more disappointed that the Republican caucus would take not support a proposal that is so important to the safety of New Jersey’s citizens,” Senate President Richard J. Codey (D-Essex) said after the vote. “This is a common sense measure to put a stop to in-state ‘straw’ purchases of large numbers of handguns that are then sold illegally and used by criminals and gang members. We’re trying to go after the bulk sellers of handguns who buy numerous weapons and turn around and sell them on the black market.”

Sen. Marcia Karrow, R-Hunterdon, said she was pleased that she was part of a successful effort to ensure the so-called “one-gun-a-month” bill was held in the state Senate today. The bill was held after she made her Senate floor speech in opposition to this bill.

“It’s hard to hear about the death and pain that criminals cause with firearms, and not want to do something about it," Karrow said. "However, the “One-Gun-A-Month” bill is an ineffective attempt to address this very serious problem. Now that it has been held, I hope its backers withdraw it from further consideration."

The bill would have prohibited a retail dealer of firearms from knowingly delivering more than one handgun to a person within a 30-day period. It would have also prohibited the holder of a permit to purchase a handgun from buying more than one gun in a 30-day period.

The bill does not apply to federal, state or local law enforcement officers or agencies buying handguns for them or licensed collectors.

After asking that the bill be held, Cunningham said the fight to protect New Jerseyans is not over.

“I’m very proud of the effort that we have made on this bill on behalf of the people of New Jersey,” Cunningham said. “This is an issue that affects all New Jerseyans, whether they live in the cities or the suburbs. The threat of handgun violence has reached into every corner of the state.”

“This legislation is about reducing gun violence and saving lives,” said Ruiz.“The effects of illegal gun violence and the wounds it causes are far-reaching in that they not only touch victims, but also families and communities as a whole.  The passage of this bill would be a significant step in the right direction toward reducing the number of illegal, unlicensed guns on the streets and increasing safety for the people of this state.”

Codey noted an Attorney General’s report detailing how a gang member with a clean record will purchase handguns legally and then transfer them to other members of the gang.

“Ceasefire NJ says this bill is critical to public safety,” Codey said. “It’s just too bad that our colleagues on the other side of the aisle would look at this vote as a place to gain some kind of partisan advantage than as a chance to do something meaningful to help protect our citizens from gun violence.”

Karrow said the bill won’t prevent gang members and criminals from getting all the guns they need, noting they will buy their weapons from street merchants who repeatedly flout anti-gun laws with too little fear of arrest or incarceration.

"This bill does nothing to attack this illegal gun trade," Karrow said. "It simply adds paperwork and frustration to the lives of collectors and law-abiding citizens who have many legitimate reasons for purchasing more than one gun at a time."

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