Gun control will take center stage again at the State House with Senate President Stephen Sweeney leading the charge to get several reform measures approved. He told NJ Today Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor that he hopes legislators will see that New Jersey needs instant background checks and gun safety training for owners. He also discussed his relationship with Sen. Tom Kean, the Republican majority leader. The two have been involved in a feud of sorts, blocking legislation the other has introduced.
Sweeney said the gun control bill scheduled to be put forth tomorrow could be a national model. It includes instant background checks, mandatory gun safety training and tracking of ammunition purchases over the internet, among others. He said nationally, legislators couldn’t get something similar passed and he’s confident New Jersey can.
“I think it’s a very good piece of legislation and not because it’s my bill but because we sat with both sides of the issue on several occasions and listened to everybody and came up with what we think is again what I said, a national model,” said Sweeney.
He added that Sen. Shirley Turner and others are sponsoring a bill to get tougher on gun crime, including mandatory minimum punishments and no reduction of bail for gun crimes.
In the Assembly, some Democratic leaders cited restrictions on magazine capacity as the sticking point to passage. Sweeney said while he respects their position, he disagrees with that assessment.
“What really we need to focus on is background checks, making sure that all firearm sales have a background check, that there’s gun safety training for all people that have firearms, that we deal with ammunition in a proper way,” Sweeney said. “Like I said, I respect my colleagues in the Assembly and their position on that issue. I think these other issues are way, way more important.”
Sweeney said he doesn’t know if Gov. Chris Christie would sign the measure, “but if he does, this is something that people around the country will be looking at to do, which is instant background checks.”
Kean and Sweeney have made headlines recently for their somewhat rocky political relationship. “I’m just tired of the partisan atmosphere with Tom Kean and what he’s been doing,” Sweeney said. “Look, for three and a half years, no one can question the fact that I’ve been willing to work across the aisle to get the big things done in the state of New Jersey and I’m proud of that. But I’m not gonna play political games that Tom’s playing.”
According to Sweeney, legislators had the proposed bill with plenty of time and only the word “internet” was omitted in two places. “Every Republican when my bill went forward voted against it so I really wasn’t expecting Republican support on the bill,” he said. “But courtesy’s a two-way street. And I don’t understand why Tom’s behaving and acting the way he is but I’m not gonna sit for it. I don’t believe in that. That’s what’s wrong in Washington. And if Tom Kean is against common sense gun reform, shame on him.”
Sweeney said he hasn’t spoken to Kean since Kean blocked his gun reform measure because he doesn’t want to deal with it. “I have shown Tom nothing but respect for three and a half years. We did major legislation where I had him as my co prime sponsor,” Sweeney said. “Why because it’s six months before an election we’re going to play these childish games? I have no idea. But he needs to knock it off and recognize that gun reform is needed in this state.”