New Jersey's 21st Legislative District

Senator Tom Kean, Jr.

Senator Tom Kean

Kean Editorial: A Bipartisan Compromise to Protect Victims of Domestic Abuse from Gun Violence

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The Star-Ledger published an editorial by Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean (R-Union, Somerset) on a bipartisan compromise bill to provide significant protections to the victims of domestic violence.

The Star-Ledger published Sen. Tom Kean’s editorial on a bipartisan compromise bill to protect victims of domestic violence. (Flickr)

The New Jersey Senate advanced a bipartisan compromise on Aug. 1 that will provide significant protections to the victims of domestic violence.

At issue was legislation (S-805) sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) that addressed how firearms are handled in cases of domestic violence.

That bill was conditionally vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie based on concerns that it represented symbolic reform that did little to make the victims and those at risk of domestic violence safer.

Many noted that a major deficiency in the original bill had left it to those who are required to turn over their firearms to make arrangements with law enforcement for their surrender.

As Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth) noted: “For a person subject to a restraining order related to domestic violence, it makes no sense to give them a week to turn in their firearms. You’re just giving them a week to do something bad.”

After all, if the goal is to prevent a potentially dangerous person from attacking a domestic partner, wouldn’t it make more sense to take possession of their firearms as soon as a restraining order is issued?

That’s exactly what new compromise legislation (S-2483) would do. It is now headed to the Assembly, where we are confident it will win approval.

Under the new bill, sponsored by Sens. Weinberg and Beck, that gap in time is eliminated when a person who shouldn’t have a gun still has access to their firearms.

This is important as that’s precisely the time when many horrific acts of domestic violence occur.

The compromise legislation establishes that when a restraining order requiring the surrender of firearms is served, a law enforcement officer will escort the subject to the location of their stored firearms to effectuate their immediate surrender.

No longer will we trust that aggressors will eventually comply with restraining orders to surrender their weapons or give them a final window of opportunity to further attack their victims when they think they still have a chance.

The new legislation also includes clarification of the process for the immediate surrender of firearms by a defendant post-conviction. This provision was included in both the original bill and the governor’s conditional veto.

I give credit to the senate majority leader for including a very important provision in the original bill to ensure that those who are convicted of domestic violence must immediately turn over any weapons in their possession. This will ensure immediate safety for victims, as well as their children and families. It was great to see Gov. Christie lend his support for this provision as well.

Additionally, Sen. Weinberg also took significant steps to keep weapons out of the hands of those accused of domestic violence. Under Weinberg’s original bill, victims would be able to inform the courts of any weapons that may still remain in the defendant’s possession.

The compromise legislation improves on the original bill in the following ways:

  • The original bill left gaps in time where a person who is required to surrender their firearms still had access to their weapons. This is a time when many acts of violence occur.
  • The new bill eliminates those gaps by requiring a law enforcement officer to escort the subject of a restraining order to retrieve their weapons for immediate surrender.
  • The new compromise bill also seeks to improve compliance by those who are required to surrender their firearms by requiring orders for the surrender of firearms to include notification of potential penalties for failure to comply.
  • The new compromise bill also provides for enhanced penalties for domestic violence offenders, including maximum penalties for second and subsequent offenses of third or fourth degree domestic violence crimes, a key priority for Gov. Christie.

Our passage of S-2483 was supported by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the co-founder of the gun violence prevention organization Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS).

ARS has advocated around the nation for the adoption of laws that would help limit domestic abusers’ access to guns and protect domestic violence survivors.

“This agreement is a real victory for responsibility that will make New Jersey families safer, and it represents the kind of bipartisan approach to preventing gun tragedies that our communities need. I’m grateful to New Jersey’s legislators for doing the responsible thing and voting to make the Garden State a safer place to live,” Giffords said.

Negotiating the compromise was not easy, but we ended up with a practical solution that will offer real protections to the victims of domestic violence. I am grateful to Sens. Weinberg and Beck, Gov. Christie and the advocates on all sides for their efforts to find a positive and timely solution.

By working together, we have addressed deficiencies in the current process of removing firearms from domestic abusers that the original bill failed to address.

If enacted, I have no doubt that this legislation will make the people of New Jersey safer.

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