NJ Gov. Murphy doubles down on pledge to expand gun control

Gov. Phil Murphy speaks during a roundtable discussion at Katz Jewish Community Center in Cherry Hill, NJ on February 13, 2018. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

At a roundtable event surrounded by gun safety advocates, Gov. Murphy doubled down on his campaign promises to sign every piece of gun legislation that former Gov. Chris Christie vetoed and to strengthen gun control.

Seated next to Assembly Majority Leader Louis D. Greenwald (D., Camden), a major proponent of gun safety bills rejected by Christie, Murphy spoke of introducing “commonsense laws that respect the Second Amendment.”

“There’s a myth out there that if you strengthen gun safety laws, you somehow chip away at the Second Amendment,” Murphy said at the panel discussion Tuesday in Cherry Hill at the Katz Jewish Community Center. “I don’t believe that — you don’t believe that.”

Legislation proposed during the hour-long talk included what Murphy described as “critical magazine capacity laws,” which protect the state’s handgun-carry regulations, implement more comprehensive background checks, prohibit possession of armor-piercing ammunition, and expand smart gun technology and sales.

No time frame was set to introduce the legislation.

“As we sit here today, already, in just February of 2018, there have been nine deaths in New Jersey due to gun violence,” Greenwald said. “We have seen an increase in the last decade, year over year, in what are considered mass shootings.”

Citing the increasing number of mass shootings across the United States since 2013, Greenwald said that while New Jersey has a lot to be proud of regarding gun control, the country has “remained stagnant.”

Camera icon David Maialetti
Gov. Phil Murphy, center, speaks during a round table discussion at Katz Jewish Community Center in Cherry Hill, NJ on February 13, 2018. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

The sentiment among the 12 panel members was that gun violence should be recognized as a public health crisis, which Murphy said is something Congress “refuses to do nationally.”

“This is a public health reality, not just a specific gun-related matter,” Murphy said.

One of the new governor’s first missions is to unravel the Christie administration’s legacy that made it easier for New Jersey residents to get a concealed carry permit.

In January, state Attorney General  Gurbir Grewal filed a motion seeking to reverse a 2016 law signed by Christie that made it easier for residents to obtain a concealed carry permit.

Murphy said Tuesday he wanted to undo the “broad new definition” of qualifications for a concealed carry permit from “I need to carry it because of a general threat of facts,” to “I need to carry it for a very specific threat,” calling Christie’s legislation “too loose.”

Murphy’s campaign against carry permits was called “draconian” by the National Rifle Association and others, including Thomas Rogers from Wall Township. Rogers, who was robbed at gunpoint, filed a federal lawsuit last week against New Jersey’s restrictions on carrying handguns.

Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, called the groups’ lawsuit “an important step toward ensuring that law-abiding citizens have the full ability to protect themselves and their loved ones.”

Aside from the lawsuit, Murphy may face another obstacle   a federal Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act.

Already passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, it would require states to recognize another state’s concealed carry permit, even in those states where concealed carry is illegal.

“We would be subject, if this were to transpire, to the lowest common denominator — so you pick your weakest gun law state in the nation,” Murphy said. “New Jersey … which is among the toughest and smartest in commonsense safety laws, would be subject to that.”