METUCHEN, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday signed seven new bills into law aimed at curtailing gun violence, including legislation to allow the state attorney general to pursue lawsuits against the firearm industry.
Murphy, a second-term Democrat who's already signed a number of measures focused on gun violence, invoked the fatal Independence Day shooting in Illinois, as well as recent fatal shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas.
“In the wake of horrific mass shootings in Highland Park, Illinois, Uvalde Texas, and Buffalo, New York, it is necessary that we take action in order to protect our communities,” Murphy said.
Previewing what could be more legislation to come, he said there's more work to be done, particularly on how New Jersey will address the Supreme Court striking down its “justifiable need” requirement to carry a handgun. Murphy said after signing the new laws that in response to the court's expansion of gun rights, he wants to see the Democrat-led Legislature address where handguns can and cannot be carried, as well as expanding the list of people prohibited from carrying.
“This is a huge step forward for commonsense gun safety and for safer communities. But it cannot be our only or last step,” he said.
New Jersey has among the strictest gun laws in the nation, a major factor explaining few cases of firearm-related violence compared with other states, acting attorney general Matt Platkin said.
The bills Murphy signed:
— Authorize the state's attorney general to bring “public nuisance” claims against gun manufacturers and others who market firearms.
— Require a safety course in order to get a firearm purchaser's identification card in New Jersey. Training to get a carry permit had already been required.
— Hold those moving from out of state to New Jersey to the permitting requirements residents must follow. That means applying for a purchasers permit within 60 days and registering weapons with law enforcement.
— Require gun sellers to retail so-called microstamping firearms — weapons that imprint each round of ammunition with identifying information once such technology is certified to be available by the state attorney general.
— Require a state registry to track ammunition sales.
— Increase the penalties for people who purchase firearms parts to manufacture weapons without serial numbers from a third-degree crime to a second-degree crime, taking the possible punishments from 3 to 5 years in prison to 5 to 10.
— Ban .50-caliber guns.
Murphy signed the bills alongside public officials in a packed municipal building that was also filled with anti-gun violence activists wearing red “Moms Demand Action” T-shirts.
Second Amendment advocates opposed the legislation, testifying against it in the Legislature, which voted on of the measures the same day the Supreme Court delivered its opinion in the New York case.
“Gov. Murphy’s bill package chooses to target law-abiding gun owners while ignoring criminals and those with dangerous behavioral issues who are responsible for most violence in New Jersey,” said Scott Bach, the executive director of the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs.
Murphy seemed to acknowledge criticism Tuesday that the measures might not prevent gun crime, but said that if they reduce gun-related violence, then they'll be worth it.
“If by signing these laws today we can improve our batting average, in other words you measure your batting average by fewer gun crimes, fewer fatalities, fewer injuries, more positive street team work, better prosecution — whatever it might be — better holding the manufacturers more accountable. All of that may not move the needle to batting a thousand but it improves our batting average and that's what we are all in this to do,” he said.
The measures — some of which had been pending for years — sped through the Legislature after the Supreme Court's ruling last month.
They come more than a year after Murphy had unveiled the latest round of measures aimed at cracking down on gun violence, but legislation he previously sought was not among the new laws the governor signed Tuesday.
A measure requiring guns be kept in safes or lockboxes and legislation upping the age to 21 from 18 to purchase long guns in New Jersey are still pending in the Legislature.