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24/04/2013 | Christie Gun-Reform Plan Targets Traffickers

GopUSA Staff

Governor Christie proposed tight penalties for gun trafficking and straw purchasing -- crimes he said are behind much of New Jersey's gun violence.


He unveiled his plans Friday, after months of lobbying by both sides of the gun control debate. The proposals come three months after New York State passed a sweeping gun control law and just days after a bill expanding background checks for firearm purchases failed in the U.S. Senate.

Christie -- who stressed repeatedly that he thinks the state's gun laws are already strong -- wants to make it easier to force mentally ill people into treatment before they become violent. And it should be illegal for criminals barred from owning firearms to own ammunition, he said.

The governor unveiled a total of 20 changes toughening penalties for gun-related crimes and reforming bail laws. Those include new criminal penalties for selling a gun to a convicted criminal or hiring a straw purchaser and altering the penalty for firearms trafficking to include 25 years of parole ineligibility.

Christie made his announcement at a news conference Friday, a week after his violence prevention task force returned a report suggesting changes to state law and policy. The report avoided recommending any sweeping changes to New Jersey's gun laws, which are already considered among the strictest in the country.

The governor convened the violence panel in the aftermath of December's school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Christie offered something for both sides of the gun control debate. He said he wants to ban purchases of Barrett .50-caliber weapons, and he proposed tightening restrictions on minors' ability to buy violent video games -- a change gun owners have pushed for.

But he did not endorse efforts to tighten limits on the capacity of ammunition magazines, as gun control advocates had hoped for, and he maintained his opposition to armed guards in public schools -- a measure promoted by the National Rifle Association.

Nicola Bocour, project director for Ceasefire New Jersey, said Christie's changes "wouldn't be enough to close all of the gaps" in New Jersey's gun laws. She said she was glad he wants to crack down on gun trafficking, but the state should tighten access to weapons and prohibit more varieties of firearms, she said.

The New Jersey Second Amendment Society said Christie had not released enough details in his proposals for them to form an opinion.

"It's tough to say because the devil's in the details. I can say that we certainly agree in principle," said Bob Barush, legislative affairs director for the society, referring to Christie's proposals on mental health and criminal penalties.

Christie said he is aiming to get to the "root causes" of violence in the state. But pointing to the massive manhunt under way in Massachusetts on Friday as authorities searched for the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing, Christie emphasized that no laws will totally eliminate violence.

"Boston is yet a painful reminder of things I've said many times before," he said. "Horrible things will continue to happen if people are willing to act horribly and don't care about the consequences. Some things, no matter how hard we try, are simply out of our control."

New York State passed legislation in January requiring mental health professionals to report to law enforcement those patients they believe are likely to harm themselves or others. The law also limits ammunition magazines to seven rounds and requires ammunition sellers to conduct background checks of their customers.

A bipartisan bill that failed in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday would have required sales of weapons at gun shows and over the Internet to go through the same federal background check system used for sales by licensed dealers.

Christie said his proposals -- which he called "aggressive and thoughtful" -- fall into four broad categories: expanding gun control laws, toughening penalties for gun-related crimes, restricting violent video games and improving mental health treatment.

The governor proposed banning Barrett .50-caliber firearms, and any weapon "substantially identical," as well as requiring certain mental health records be included in the instant background check process already used for gun purchasers.

He identified 20 areas where bail laws and criminal penalties for people involved in gun-related crimes should be strengthened.

Those 20 changes form the centerpiece of Christie's proposals. They increase penalties for gun trafficking and create new laws against so-called straw purchasers -- people barred from buying guns who instead hire others to buy firearms or ammunition for them.

He also said he wants to simplify the process for mandating "potentially dangerous individuals receive treatment" and prohibit people who have been involuntarily committed for mental health treatment from buying guns.

The recent mass shootings in Connecticut and Colorado were carried out by people who were mentally ill, he said. "We need to make sure these people get treatment."

Finally, Christie said the state should require parental consent for children to buy or rent video games rated "mature" or "adult only."

But the governor did not sign on to many of the gun bills that passed the Assembly in February.

That chamber passed a package of 22 bills that, among other changes, would reduce ammunition magazines to 10 rounds, ban armor- piercing and .50-caliber bullets, prohibit Internet or mail-order ammunition sales, require background checks for private gun sales and allow firearms to be seized if a mental health professional determines a patient poses a threat.

GopUSA (Estados Unidos)


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