“Nobody needs an Uzi. Nobody needs an AK-47.”
With those words to the media nearly 30 years ago, former Gov. James Florio set New Jersey on course to adopt the country’s strongest gun-safety laws, including a ban on a wide range of semi-automatic weapons.
This coming week, a successor, Gov. Phil Murphy, is expected to do his part to keep Garden State residents safe.
The first-term Democrat is poised to sign six bills that passed the state Legislature Thursday, including a measure that authorizes courts to issue restraining orders to persons who pose a significant risk or personal injury to themselves or others by possessing a firearm.
Specifically, the legislation will authorize family members or friends to apply to the courts to keep weapons out of the hands of loved ones if the situation warrants it.
Another bill in the package will mandate law-enforcement officials in the state to seize a person’s guns if a mental-health professional determines that the person poses a threat to himself/herself or to others.
Additional measures require that all private gun sales in the state to go through a licensed dealer who can perform an additional background check at the point of sale, and ban magazines in the state that hold more than 10 rounds, with some exceptions.
As of the end of May, there had been 23 reported school shootings this year alone. At one of them, the deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., sparked a national student-led campaign for more sensible gun laws.
The bills also come as U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur – who boasts a 93 percent approval record from the National Rifle Association – has co-sponsored a bill that would allow firearms enthusiasts to carry concealed weapons across state lines, over-riding New Jersey’s long-standing ban.
Clearly, the big bucks the powerful lobby has poured into the congressman’s coffers – nearly $10,000 worth – are paying huge dividends.
Slowly, very slowly, sentiment seems to be shifting nationwide as the true horror of unchecked gun ownership sinks in.
As happened with drunken driving, as happened with tobacco use, society eventually takes a U-turn, despite desperate efforts by powerful lobbyists and self-proclaimed defenders of the status quo.
The legislation Murphy is expected to approve this week proves it can happen within the gun culture as well.
These are sensible bills, not designed to pry the weapons out of the hands of legal and responsible owners, but rather to come to an accommodation that helps keep New Jersey residents free from harm. We will be among those applauding when the governor picks up his pen.