Well, not surprisingly, the national debate over gun-control laws in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shootings will come to New Jersey in the new year.

Assemblyman Joseph Cryan, D-Union, is calling for legislation that would reduce the maximum allowable capacity of any ammunition magazine to five rounds. Unfortunately, his bill is likely to spark the kind of rancorous debate, with hardened, intractable positions on both sides, then tends to cloud an issue more than clarify it.

The truth is, New Jersey already has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation, and the country would be well-served by simply adopting New Jersey's existing gun laws nationwide.

The state requires all gun purchasers to have a Firearms Purchaser Identification Card. A separate permit for each individual handgun purchased is also required. Both require law-enforcement background checks. And purchasers can buy only one handgun every 30 days.

New Jersey also bans a long list of so-called assault weapons - including the Bushmaster .223 rifle so popular with mass killers everywhere. And the state already bans magazines containing more than 15 rounds. (Newtown killer Adam Lanza was reportedly equipped with 30-round magazines.)

So while Cryan's bill would result in some marginal increase in protection against the world's mass murderers, it is probably not worth the inflamed debate it will spark.

However, Sen. Richard Codey, D-Essex, has a different proposal that could have more of an effect over the long term: Ban state pension funds from investing in any companies that manufacture assault-style weapons for civilian use.

In the days after Newtown, it came to light that CalSTRS, the California teachers pension fund and the second-largest pension fund in the nation, had $751.4 million invested in Cerberus Capital Management LP, a hedge fund that controls Bushmaster Firearms International. With six teachers among the victims in Newtown, you can understand how this news distressed many people.

Cerberus quickly saw the danger to its bottom line and almost immediately announced that it would sell its interests in Freedom Group, an entity it created when it bought Bushmaster in 2006 and merged it with several other gun companies.

So just the fear that CalSTRS would divest led to immediate action. Sure, someone else will buy Bushmaster. It won't go out of business or stop making assault rifles anytime soon. But it could someday if enough investors turn their back on the company.

And that's why Codey's proposal is important. Worldwide pressure for companies to stop investing in South Africa helped bring down that country's policy of racial apartheid. If New Jersey and enough other states ban their public-employee pension funds from investing in companies that make assault weapons, economics could eventually result in the kind of gun control that mere laws cannot.

At the very least, as Codey said, his bill would ensure that New Jersey is no longer complicit in horrific events such as Newtown.

And that's something.

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