New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is once again calling on the Legislature to put his proposals for stricter gun control up for a vote. He then went further, calling for every gun related bill to be considered – even the ones weakening control of firearms.
“Let’s make every legislator choose whose side they have chosen to be on; the people of New Jersey on the one hand, or the gun lobby on the other hand,” he said.
The governor’s call on Wednesday comes a day after 19 students and two adults were killed in the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook. Murphy also mentioned the racist shooting in Buffalo that claimed 10 lives and injured three. All of the fatalities in that incident were Black.
“Another day in America, another horrific act of gun violence enabled by the weak and feckless politicians kept in the holster of the gun lobby,” Murphy said. It would be one of several sharp criticisms that he would make towards leaders in Washington for not taking action.
“Congress has failed to lead time and time and time again, so it’s up to us to do the job others are too weak to do,” he added.
The governor has reintroduced a package he called “Gun Safety 3.0.”
The proposals would ban .50 caliber firearms; require gun safety classes for anyone seeking a gun permit; mandate that gun owners store their firearms in a gun safe or lock box; obligate gun owners who move to New Jersey from other states to register for firearm purchaser ID card and register their firearms within 60 days of moving to the state; and require manufacturers or dealers of handgun ammunition to keep a detailed electronic record of ammunition sales, and report them to the State Police.
He’s also proposing a bill that would require microstamping technology, which links firearm cartridge casings found at the scene of a crime to a specific firearm, without having to recover the firearm itself. The governor is also proposing to hold the gun industry accountable for illegal weapons purchased out-of-state at gun shows.
Murphy calls out Republicans – by name
Gov. Murphy also wants legislators to consider bills “seeking to unravel our gun laws,” in addition to his gun control package.
“In the face of mass shooting, after mass shooting throughout our nation, in the face of children being slaughtered…I say let these folks come out from behind their press releases and their tweets and cast votes before the residents of this great state,” he said.
To put a fine point on it, Murphy mentioned the bills and named their Republican sponsors.
“Let the people of New Jersey see who votes ‘yes’ to legalizing hollow-point “cop killer” bullets, as Assembly Minority Leader John DiMaio wants.”
“Let the people of New Jersey see who votes ‘yes’ to high-capacity ammunition magazines, as Senator Ed Durr wants.”
“Let the people of New Jersey see who votes ‘yes’ to saying that churchgoers should be able to take their guns to services, as Senator Mike Doherty wants.”
“Let the people of New Jersey see who votes ‘yes’ to allowing anyone – anyone – to carry a concealed gun, as Senator Durr and Assemblyman Ron Dancer want.”
“Let the people of New Jersey see who votes ‘yes’ to repealing our red-flag law and letting those known to have made violent threats, including domestic abusers, unfettered access to as many guns as they want … as Senator Durr wants.”
The governor’s claims were called false and inaccurate by Bradley Schnure, communications director for Senate Republicans.
“The Doherty bill allows the governing body of a place of worship to select a single trusted person who could be armed to provide security to protect religious service attendees,” he said.
Of the proposal from Durr and Dancer, Schnure said not “anyone” is allowed to carry.
“It’s only people who are already authorized to have a gun and have had extensive training,” he said.
Schnure added that Durr has also sponsored bills “to enhance protections for domestic violence victims and to promote gun safety.”
A real conversation in 2022 needed
State Sen. Vince Polistina did not see any of the governor’s news conference, only some of the headlines. He responded with a tweet.
NRA and some politicians are big problems for our country. We have a right to keep and bear arms but to ignore how much weapons have changed since 1791 is ignorant and not considered by founders. We need to address mental illness and enact laws to help prevent senseless tragedies— Senator Vince Polistina (@SenPolistina) May 25, 2022
The Republican from Atlantic County said it speaks to the need “to have a real [bipartisan] conversation in 2022” about mental health and enacting laws “that will prevent some of these senseless things from happening.”
“People have a right to keep and bear arms,” he said. “But at the same time, in 1791, there was no way for the founders to recognize the weapons that we have in our country today.”
Polistina said mental health is a “significant” problem in the country, but adds laws need to be in place “that would prevent 18-year-olds, the day after their birthday, going in and buying a AR-15, and then the next day, 375 rounds of ammunition.”
He adds that there should be “real” background and mental illness checks and other safeguards in place “against some people getting weapons like these.”
“If I were the governor, I would get members of both parties, along with his administration, to gather in a room and let’s start kicking the ideas around,” Poliostina said.
Unlike Republicans in Texas who are calling for more teachers to be armed, he is not inclined to talk about arming teachers in the classroom.
“I don’t think that that is part of the conversation at this point, because I think that right now we need to have laws that would restrict people from getting firearms like they’re getting,” Polistina said, adding it’s “a topic worth exploring.”
“There’s nothing that can be done in the short term to get people trained to be able to deal with having firearms in the classrooms,” he added.
New Jersey Education Association president Sean Spiller’s first response when asked about arming teachers was, “no, no, no, no, no.” He adds that Tuesday’s tragedy still happened in Texas, “a state with tons of guns.”
“The answer to yet another – yet another – school shooting is not, ‘hey, let’s get more guns out there,’” he said. “The answer now is let’s figure out ways – common sense ways – that we can keep our kids safer by ensuring that guns don’t get in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.”
WHYY’s Tennyson Donyea contributed reporting.