NJ ‘can’t wait’ to use new law letting it sue gun companies
METUCHEN – Another seven gun control related laws were signed Tuesday by Gov. Phil Murphy, including one that will allow the state to sue gun makers and sellers in state court, something they are shielded from under federal law.
Murphy said the public nuisance law is perhaps the most important among the seven. Acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin says no other industry has that type of federal protection.
“The law that the Legislature and the governor have worked on will give us tools to finally hold accountable those who have profited off this bloodshed,” Platkin said. “I want to be clear to everyone. We’re going to use it. And I can’t wait to use it.”
The bills were approved by the Legislature last week, days after the Supreme Court upended the state’s concealed-carry limits by ruling against New York’s similar rules, but were not crafted in response to the court ruling.
Separate bills are being developed in response to the ruling, limiting the places where guns can be freely carried and disqualifying certain groups of people, such as those with domestic violence records, from a gun carry permit.
'Actually a privilege these days'
Sen. Joe Cryan, D-Union, said the rules have changed between 1776 and today, between a musket and AK-47.
“It may be a right under the Second Amendment, but it should darn sure be a regulated right,” Cryan said. “It’s my opinion that it’s actually a privilege these days – that somewhere between AK and 47, it became a privilege.”
The new laws prohibit .50 caliber rifles; crack down on ghost guns; require micro stamping; require firearms training; regulate the sale of handgun ammunition; have new residents register firearms from other states, and allow the attorney general to sue the gun industry.
Those bills were proposed by Murphy more than 16 months ago, his third round of gun control bills. Two additional proposals the governor made last year haven’t been passed – raising the age to buy rifles and shotguns from 18 to 21 and new rules for how guns and ammunition are to be stored in a home.
Murphy said that since he first proposed his third batch of gun laws in April 2021, there have been 1,271 shootings in New Jersey in which 291 people died and 1,313 were injured.
“In the face of the Supreme Court’s tragic and wrongheaded ruling, we need those laws and all of these laws more than ever before,” Murphy said.
Last Thursday, Murphy noted, the Supreme Court directed the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its ruling that upheld a 2018 New Jersey law reducing the largest allowing size of ammunition magazines from 15 rounds to 10.
Sen. Ed Durr, R-Gloucester, criticized the new laws, saying none would do anything to protect residents from attacks like the one on a Fourth of July parade in Illinois in which seven people were killed.
“These are empty solutions that will not stop violent criminals who will ignore every new gun law that’s enacted,” Durr said. “All these bills will do is put more legal gun owners at risk of being prosecuted for unintentional technical violations of the law.”
Murphy said the bills won’t stop all gun violence but will help incrementally. He said the new laws might have helped if, for instance, the ammunition database tipped off police that the suspect was stockpiling bullets or someone conducting the firearms training thought something was off.
And Platkin said the new laws aren’t the only things the state is doing to address gun violence.
“I hear some of the people talk, and I’ve been asked even in the last few days: Well, isn’t it all a problem with illegal guns?” Platkin said. “Trust me, we’re going after them, too.”
How they voted
Here's what was enacted, or approved by at least one house of the Legislature last week, with an interactive graphic of each legislator's votes below:
S1204/A1179 – Requires firearm owners who become New Jersey residents to obtain firearm purchaser identification card and register handguns acquired out-of-State. Passed Senate 23-15. Passed Assembly 51-27.
S1893/A1765 – Allows Attorney General to bring cause of action for certain public nuisance violations arising from sale or marketing of firearms. Passed Senate 24-16. Passed Assembly 44-32.
S2846/A4367 – Upgrades certain crimes related to manufacturing firearms from third degree to second degree. Passed Senate 32-6. Passed Assembly 64-14.
S2847/A4369 – Prohibits possession and requires registration of body armor in certain circumstances. Passed Senate 24-15. Not voted on in Assembly.
S2903/A1302 – Regulates sale of handgun ammunition and develops system of electronic reporting of handgun ammunition sales. Passed Senate 25-15. Passed Assembly 47-29-1.
S2905/A4366 – Revises definition of destructive device to include certain .50 caliber rifles; makes certain exceptions. Passed Senate 25-14. Passed Assembly 48-30-6.
S2906/A4370 – Requires training for issuance of firearms purchaser identification card and permit to purchase handgun under certain circumstances; provide firearms purchaser identification card include photograph and thumb print and remain valid for ten years. Passed Senate 24-16. Passed Assembly 48-28-1.
S2907/A4368 – Requires firearm retailers to sell microstamping-enabled firearms upon determination of availability by AG. Passed Senate 24-16. Passed Assembly 45-31-1.
A509/S504 – Increases from 18 to 21 age at which person is eligible to receive firearms purchaser identification. Passed Assembly 49-28. Not voted on in Senate.