A gun control measure that ignited a public spat between former Gov. Chris Christie and two parents of first-graders killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting is back on track this year.
And this time, New Jersey’s new governor, Phil Murphy, says he’ll sign the measure into law.
“We have among the most progressive, smartest gun safety laws in the nation. That is a fact,” Murphy said at a roundtable in Cherry Hill Tuesday. “It’s also a fact that they can be strengthened.”
The bill would reduce the permitted size of ammunition magazines from 15 rounds to 10. The state’s Democratic-controlled Legislature is moving on the measure again after Christie vetoed it in 2014.
At the time, Christie called the bill a “trivial approach to human life.” The parents of the Sandy Hook victims who spent more than a year lobbying for the law, Nicole Hockley and Mark Barden, in turn, said the governor’s action was a “blow to the memories of our children.”
Now, Murphy says the bill is just one of a series of gun control measures he’ll sign.
“We have a package of bills that are really important,” state Assemblyman Lou Greenwald, D-Camden, said at the roundtable.
The others making they’re way through the Legislature would:
— Require background checks for private gun sales.
— Ban armor-piercing ammunition.
— Make people seeking a handgun permit under “justifiable need” demonstrate the urgent necessity for the firearm rather than “a more generalized fear or concern.” The measure would codify an existing rule.
— Ban .50-caliber assault rifles.
— Require gun shops to sell personalized handguns, or so-called smart guns, if the technology is available on the market.
Murphy said the bills amount to “a short list of things” he wants to enact.
Not present at the roundtable were any gun activist groups or a representative from the National Rifle Association, all of which have opposed any of the Democratic-controlled Legislature’s attempts at passing stricter gun rules in the state.
More recently, the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs filed a lawsuit last week over Murphy’s measure to prove a “justifiable need” to obtain a license to carry.
Scott Bach, the president of the group, says it’s nearly “impossible for the average citizen to qualify” for a permit.
But Murphy has argued having some of the strictest gun control measures on the book don’t do enough to combat the nation’s epidemic of gun violence.
“It’s like being the tallest building in Omaha,” said former Gov. James Florio, who signed the nation’s toughest ban on assault weapons in 1990.
“There’s no question in my mind and in the polling data that the vast majority of people in the state and in the nation feel that there needs to be more restrictions on gun rules,” he said. “If you get people engaged and informed they can overpower the small, highly disciplined gun lobby.”