New Jersey already had some of the strictest gun-control laws in the nation when Gov. Phil Murphy took office. Undaunted in his quest to establish his progressive credentials, the governor and his fellow Democrats have enacted another 10 gun-control laws and his first term isn’t even half over.
This week a federal judge upheld one of the six laws signed last year by Murphy, which tightened an existing limit on magazine capacity from 15 bullets to 10. Others seemed less effective or redundant.
Murphy signed four more bills recently, led by a new smart-gun mandate that at least fixes the failed existing smart-gun law that has been on the books for 17 years.
That previous version had required that if smart guns — ones with technology that ensures they can be fired only by their lawful owners — ever became available, they would be the only kind of handgun for sale in New Jersey.
It already was almost impossible to get a permit for a regular handgun in the state. Many felt the law signed by Gov. Jim McGreevey discouraged gun manufacturers from developing a smart gun since to do so would make illegal in the state all the handguns that buyers generally prefer.
The new law, still anticipating that day when an approved smart gun reaches the market, requires gun retailers to sell at least one model and provide buyers with a list of others approved by a new state committee. Sellers would also have to prominently display the smart gun and provide information on its special features. A state telling businesses what to sell sounds fishy, but at least the goal of ensuring availability is reasonable.
The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action objected, of course, calling it an attempt to force the market to accept an inferior product. It said even if smart guns reach New Jersey gun dealers, they won’t sell and “will have zero impact on public safety.” The law was just “another swipe at the state’s law-abiding citizens.”
One of the new laws, the only one to get Republican support, addresses the connection between gun availability and suicide. It requires the attorney general to establish a suicide prevention course and materials, which gun dealers and firing ranges will have to make available to customers. The course will be optional.
That seems like a new approach to the leading cause of U.S. firearms deaths, but its effectiveness will depend on what Attorney General Gurbir Grewal produces.
Meanwhile, Murphy and state Democrats can boast that, even in gun-unfriendly New Jersey, they’ve been able to come up with some new restrictions on legal ownership. Many people clamor for officials to do something, anything, every time there is a newsworthy shooting nationally. They seem to be listening.