Several gun bills await NJ Gov. Chris Christie’s signature or veto

Several gun bills await NJ Gov. Chris Christie’s signature or veto

The New Jersey legislature has been busy this session debating new legislation that would strengthen gun crimes and gun control in the state. At least 14 such measures await his consideration. Officials and the public alike are watching to see which he enacts and which he rejects.

The first veto

As of July 5, 2013, the governor has only taken official action on one gun bill. On June 28, he vetoed legislation that would have forbidden the state of New Jersey from investing public-pension funds in companies that sell, manufacture or import assault weapons for nonmilitary use. He did not say exactly why he took this action, but a general statement implied that he vetoed all eight bills that day for fiscal policy reasons.

Anti-Gun Trafficking Act of 2013

One of the pending gun-crime bills is the New Jersey Anti-Gun Trafficking Act of 2013 that passed both houses of state legislature almost unanimously, despite being initially promoted mainly by Democrats. This bill would impact criminal penalties in the context of gun trafficking crimes in two significant ways if enacted:

  • The crime of firearms trafficking would be added to the list of convictions subject to the state’s No Early Release Act or NERA, which requires that 85 percent of an imposed criminal sentence be served behind bars before the defendant would be eligible for parole.
  • Anyone who brings firearms into New Jersey in a motor vehicle to sell or transfer them illegally would be subject to government seizure and forfeiture of that transporting vehicle used to smuggle the weapons.

The bill also increases criminal penalties for licensed gun dealers who know or should know that they are selling a weapon to anyone who plans to use it for criminal purposes.

Public speculation

Many await the governor’s action on the remaining gun bills on his desk. He could sign those that strengthen gun-crime penalties because of the current political climate that is sensitive to the Newtown shooting victims and their families, say some observers.

In the meantime, current New Jersey weapons violation crime laws – of which there are more than 20 – can bring prison time, fines and other serious penalties. Anyone under investigation for or accused of violating one of the many New Jersey gun crime laws should consult with an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney as early as possible to begin to build a vigorous defense and understand his or her legal rights and options.