N.J. state senator wants to ease sentencing for unlawful handgun possession

A New Jersey lawmaker wants to change one of the state’s toughest gun laws.

Legislation introduced by Senator Ray Lesniak would eliminate the mandatory minimum three-to-five year sentence for unlawful possession of a handgun and leave the punishment up to a judge.

He says legal gun owners, many from out of state, with no intention of committing a crime, should not face that harsh penalty.

“What we have here are innocent folks who either don’t know the law or just made a mistake. These are bad cases, and these folks should not be in prison for making innocent mistakes. I’m a gun control advocate, an unabashed gun control advocate, and these cases make us look bad because they’re unfair. We want to control the massive influx of guns into New Jersey, but we want to do it in a fair way.”

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Bryan Miller, who leads the anti-gun-violence group Heeding God’s Call, opposes the legislation.

“When these cases come up, there’s publicity about them. That’s opportunity for other people in other states to learn: Don’t bring these guns into our state.”

Legislative leaders say they have concerns about mandatory minimum sentencing requirements, but need to examine the measure before deciding whether to advance it.

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