TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A New Jersey State Assembly panel on Wednesday approved measures on mental illness and guns, despite protests from some opponents that the state’s gun laws are already too restrictive.
One bill approved by the Law and Public Safety Committee Wednesday would require the state to submit certain mental health records to a national background check system. Another would permit mental health professionals to alert authorities of patients deemed a threat to themselves and authorities could then seize those patients’ firearms; and a third measure would disqualify anyone on a federal terrorist watch list from obtaining firearms.
The committee also sent to the full Assembly a bill exempting firearms records from New Jersey’s public disclosure requirements, which passed unanimously and faced no opposing testimony.
The vote before the Assembly is scheduled for Feb. 21.
Several dozen opponents said the bills make it harder for law-abiding gun owners to obtain and keep weapons instead of addressing isolated criminal violence in their communities. They said measures should instead focus on increasing penalties on individuals who use guns to commit crimes.
Some argued that the bills overlap with what is already illegal in the state such as unlawful possession. Many opponents also insisted that no types of weapons be banned.
The testimony prompted cheers and applause.
Reijo Finnila of Freehold said after he testified that the bills “kill gun ownership by death of a thousand cuts.”
Only a handful of supporters testified in favor of the legislation.
The committee passed the measures as part of a package of gun control bills introduced by Assembly Democrats.
Committee Chairman Charles Mainor, D-Hudson, said it was “common sense” to ratchet up gun control laws in response to recent mass shootings – including the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 children ages 6 or 7 and six educators dead.
“Enough is enough is enough,” Mainor said. “No more talk. It’s time for action.”
But when Mainor said it made sense to outlaw weapons similar to those used in mass shootings, many in the audience laughed loudly.
Many Republicans on the committee voted down all or some of the bills, including Alison McHose, R-Sussex, who questioned supporters who testified if they believed existing gun laws stop criminals.
She called the package “awful gun bills.”
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