By Dari Kotzker
“If you want to vote no, that’s your choice, but these proposals deserve a vote because in the two months since Newtown, more than 1,000 birthdays, graduations, anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun,” President Barack Obama said during his State of the Union address.
A day after the president’s speech, hundreds of gun advocates flooded the Statehouse for a public hearing on a sweeping gun violence prevention package, which included two dozen bills. The committee delayed most votes until the end of the hearing.
“We may not agree on everything, but one thing I hope we can agree on is that we must do what’s best for the people of New Jersey,” said Assembly Law and Public Safety Chairman Assemblyman Charles Mainor.
The statewide debate became quickly heated with heckling by the audience. Two people were escorted out of the room by state police and a majority of those who testified were gun supporters. They argued there are already too many gun laws in New Jersey and law-abiding citizens shouldn’t be penalized. Some yelled directly at the legislators.
“I’m fed up with you. We should throw every one of you out of office if you continue this lunacy,” said Wall Township resident Nicholas Pupura.
The legislation included mental health and school safety issues, stricter gun purchasing laws and disqualifying a person named on the federal terrorist watch list from obtaining firearms.
“I’m just flabbergasted that people can vote no or abstain on a bill that prevents folks from being on a terrorist watch list the ability to buy firearms. That’s beyond mind boggling,” said Assemblyman Joe Cryan.
“We agree that something needs to be done to protect our schools and to address deficiencies in the mental health system. But we also recognize that no law will ever stop someone who is bent on doing evil because someone bent on doing evil will never be deterred just because one particular tool is unavailable,” said Executive Director of the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs Scott Bach.
Another highly contested issue was reducing ammunition magazines from the current 15 to 10.
“Why is 10 better than 15? See, there’s no logic behind any of these rules. It’s all a matter of trying to put out feel good legislation that makes it look like you’re doing something while crime is running rampant in our cities,” said NJ Second Amendment Society President Frank Fiamingo.
“I hear all this stuff about protection of themselves. Well let’s talk about society and let’s talk about the people that are out on the streets, innocent people, who can be saved by lowering the capacity of a magazine,” said Heeding God’s Call Executive Director Bryan Miller.
The gun legislation that passes today will get full consideration at an Assembly voting session on Feb. 21.