By John Celock
New Jersey lawmakers moved forward Thursday with a proposal to ban high capacity gun magazines in the state.
The Democratic-controlled State Assembly voted 46-31 to pass legislation to lower the magazine capacity from 15 rounds to 10 rounds. The proposal marks the latest effort by state lawmakers to enact some of the strictest gun control laws in the country, an effort begun in the wake of December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
“This is about if I go out and I shoot a deer 10 times and before I shoot that deer 11 times I have to reload. This will not take away rights,” Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald (D-Voorhees) told his colleagues. “This is not a public relations issues of families of the children of Sandy Hook. This is not a public relations issue to the family of Congresswoman Giffords.”
The high capacity magazine ban is the continuation of efforts begun by Greenwald and legislative Democrats in 2013 to enact tougher gun control laws. The magazine capacity limit had been included in the 2013 package of bills but died amid opposition from Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford).
Sweeney, a likely candidate for the 2017 Democratic gubernatorial nomination, dropped his opposition to the bill last month. Sweeney had originally described the 15 round limit as “effective” but said that a meeting with Sandy Hook parents convinced him to change his mind.
Greenwald discussed Sandy Hook during legislative debate when questioned by Republicans. Assemblywoman Allison Littell McHose (R-Franklin) described the current limits as working and said that criminals would not follow a gun law before committing a crime in New Jersey.
“We have debated gun control for many years. There is evidence that these bills do not impact the criminals,” Littell McHose said. “They do not follow them.”
Littell McHose and Assemblyman Parker Space (R-Wantage Township) both argued that New Jersey criminals could buy a high capacity magazine in neighboring Pennsylvania and then bring it to New Jersey to commit crimes. Littell McHose said that law enforcement officials have told lawmakers that most guns used in New Jersey crimes are coming from other states.
Greenwald said that the magazine ban can work because a shooter would need to reload after 10 rounds instead of 15. He argued that need to reload helped save live in Sandy Hook and in the 2011 shooting at former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords’ (D-Ariz.) in Tucson. He also said a previous federal law worked.
“When we limited the magazine clip to 10 rounds under President Clinton, there was a study in Virginia that showed that the impact was a dramatic decrease,” Greenwald said.