'One Gun a Month' Bill Headed for Vote in NJ

July 7, 2008 - 7:24 PM

(CNSNews.com) - Legislation that would make it illegal for holders of a New Jersey handgun-purchaser permit to buy more than one firearm during any calendar month is going before the state assembly on Monday, June 23.

"There's no good reason why anyone would need to purchase large quantities of handguns all at the same time," said Assemblywoman Joan M. Quigley (D-32nd District), a sponsor of Assembly Bill 339, in a news release. "Criminal applications or unrecorded resale are the obvious implications of purchasing handguns in bulk."

Quigley added that passage of the measure -- a similar version of which was approved by the Assembly last year but failed in the state Senate -- "would help curtail gun access by criminal street gangs."

State Sen. Brian P. Stack (D-33rd District) agreed with the goal of Quigley's bill in a statement of his own.

"Current laws allow one-stop shopping for gangs to outfit their membership with weapons," Stack noted. "Prohibiting individual handgun purchases to one a month will help curb the number of guns that end up on the street and in the hands of criminals."

Under another provision, law enforcement agencies and officers purchasing handguns for use by officers in the performance of their duties would be exempt from the measure, as would collectors of firearms as curios or relics who have a valid Collector of Curios and Relics License issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

A buyer or seller who violates the bill could face up to 18 months in prison, a fine of up to $10,000 or both.

However, Dave Workman, communications director with the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA), told Cybercast News Service on Friday that the measure is unnecessary because honest citizens "have already been pre-certified by the state" through a 13-point background investigation.

Multiple handgun permits could not be used during the same 30-day period, Workman said, and permits that could not be used before their expiration date would become useless.

But worst of all, he said, the legislation fails to address the true source of "gun violence" -- criminals. A New Jersey court recently invalidated similar legislation brought at the local level, holding that there is no rational relationship between restricting the number of firearms purchased by law-abiding citizens and crime.

Still, Quigley's measure isn't the only legislation coming before the state Assembly in the next few weeks that has proponents of gun rights concerned.

Assembly Bill 2116, sponsored by state Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-15th District), would ban the sale of .50-calibre rifles, which the New Jersey official called "powerful battlefield-styled weapons that would be devastatingly lethal in the hands of terrorists."

"In a post-9/11 society, there is simply no reason for .50-caliber weapons to be available for civilian use," noted Gusciora in a news release. The weapon has a firing range of up to 2,000 yards, and its ammunition is the largest round available in the civilian marketplace.

"With the continued rise in gang violence across the state and the fact that New Jersey possesses numerous chemical plants and rail yards vulnerable to attack by .50-caliber weapons, we have a serious responsibility to stop these inherently deadly weapons from falling into the wrong hands," he said.

To accomplish this, the legislation would revise the definition of a "destructive device" to include weapons of .50 caliber or greater, making it unlawful to possess the firearms. The current definition only applies to weapons of .60 caliber or greater and explosive or incendiary devices.

While the bill includes an exemption for antique firearms, antique handguns and traditional muzzle-loader rifles, Gusciora said the assault-style weapons have no legitimate sporting purpose.

Under the measure, a person illegally possessing a .50-caliber weapon would face a $15,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

Gusciora said his bill gained increased significance after six men were charged in May 2007 with planning an assault on Fort Dix to kill "as many soldiers as possible" using military-grade weapons like mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47s.

"Fifty-caliber guns are inappropriate and unnecessary for civilian use and sale," he said. "These are military weapons designed specifically for the battlefield. There is no justifiable reason they should be available in the open market."

The New Jersey Libertarian Party disagrees. On the organization's Web site, they called the bill "a slap in the face to collectors, historians and the patriots who used these firearms to win the very freedoms this legislation now seeks to take away."

"The legislation makes the fundamental mistake of banning guns based on the size of the hole in the barrel rather than punishing criminal behavior," the group continued.

Workman of the CCRKBA agreed, telling Cybercast News Service on Friday that the "one-gun-a-month" idea and .50-caliber firearms have become "poster children for the gun control lobby" in New Jersey.

"These bills make great headlines, but they actually accomplish nothing," Workman said, "other than demonizing firearms and making people think that banning guns is a good idea."

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