Star-Ledger: Sweeney says N.J. Senate will act on guns by April
February 22, 2013
TRENTON — Senate President Stephen Sweeney said today his house will take up at least some of the gun control measures the Assembly has passed by the end of April, ending speculation about whether the Senate would act.
"We're going to take a hard look at the bills the Assembly did,” Sweeney said during an interview on 106.9FM in Philadelphia. “Some might be changed, some might not go through at all."
Sweeney (D-Gloucester) had been a question mark in the debate on guns that was reignited after the Newtown, Conn. tragedy. Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) has taken charge of pushing new gun legislation through the upper house. But Sweeney has said little on the issue, and so far no new gun bills have had a hearing in the Senate.
Yesterday Sweeney said some of the 22 bills the Assembly passed yesterday were “common sense,” such as mandatory training for gun owners (A3510) and banning people on the federal terrorism watch list from buying firearms (A3687).
“Look, I’ve always supported the 2nd amendment. I’m not some crazy gun guy,” he said. “And people who support guns aren’t crazy either.”
Republicans protested the Assembly’s quick action on Thursday as a knee-jerk reaction to the Connecticut tragedy, aimed at putting Republican Gov. Chris Christie in an uncomfortable political position during an election year. They pointed out what they said were flaws in some of the bills that would actually weaken state laws and violate federal law.
Among the most controversial of the measures the Assembly passed Thursday was one that would limit the size of ammunition magazines to 10 shells from the current 15 (A1329). Other bills would outlaw .50 caliber weapons (A3659) and create weapon-free school zones (A138).
Sweeney did not specify which bills he would either change or discard. But the two Assembly members who serve in his South Jersey district, John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester) and Celeste Riley (D-Cumberland), refused to vote on 12 measures – including the bills limiting the size of ammunition magazines, outlawing. 50 caliber weapons and creating weapon-free school zones.
Burzichelli said he did not want to speak for Sweeney and that his refusal to vote on them doesn’t mean they’re not going to make it through the Senate.
“All those bills… had some merit but all of them need some fine tuning in both of our opinions if they’re going to have a chance at all,” he said. “We represent a legislative district where firearms are part of a family culture as opposed to being part of a culture of violence.”
Frank Fiamingo, president of the New Jersey 2nd Amendment Society, said he would not be satisfied with support of any measures that make New Jersey’s already tough gun laws even stricter.
“We would like to see the Senate president come out stronger in favor of the New Jersey citizens’ constitutionally protected rights,” he said. “The only bill that I would support is the one that protects firearms’ owners’ information," referring to a bill (A3788) that codifies an existing state regulation prohibiting the public release of gun owners' information.
"The rest of them, as far as I’m concerned, are ill-conceived, ill-considered and do not address the actual problem of violence by criminals," he said.
Supporters of gun control measures are also gearing up for a fight. On Monday, a coalition called New Jerseyans for Safety from Gun Violence will host a Trenton press conference headlined by former Gov. Jim Florio, a Democrat who battled with the NRA in the 1990s when he enacted the state’s semi-automatic weapon ban.
Bryan Miller, executive director of Heeding God’s Call, a faith-based group that favors stricter gun laws, called the fact that the Assembly acted on 22 bills historic.
“The Assembly passed a very large package of bills with lots of different pieces to it, all of which are intended to reduce gun violence in this state,” Miller said on Thursday. “That’s got to be a good thing. We’re just very excited about the opportunity.”
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