Senator Jim Holzapfel (R-10) said that the Legislature must move forward with efforts to keep loaded firearms out of the hands of unsupervised minors to prevent future tragedies like those experienced in Newtown and Toms River recently.
The Senator’s comments followed reports that no additional votes are planned on legislation (S-2723) sponsored by Senate President Stephen Sweeney to concur with recommendations proposed by Governor Chris Christie in a conditional veto of the legislation.
“When Governor Christie conditionally vetoed the Senate President’s legislation, he did not touch the section that would increase penalties for making loaded firearms accessible to unsupervised minors,” said Holzapfel. “In fact, he specifically noted that this was a critical element of the bill that he supported. The Legislature already approved this once, so we know it has support among our colleagues as well.”
Sweeney’s bill included among its provisions an increase in penalties for those who leave a loaded firearm within easy access of a minor resulting in injury or death.
A similar provision is the only provision of a more focused bill (S-2729) sponsored by Holzapfel.
Sweeney’s larger bill contained additional controversial elements that resulted in the conditional veto. The section addressing minors’ access to loaded firearms was left unaltered by the Governor.
The Legislature could vote to concur with the Governor’s recommendations to the conditionally vetoed bill. Recent comments from the Senate President, however, indicate he has no plans to act further on his legislation, effectively rendering his bill dead.
Alternatively, the Legislature could move forward with Holzapfel’s legislation.
“My bill will help keep loaded guns out of the hands of unsupervised minors, something everyone agrees we must do,” said Holzapfel. “For the sake of our communities, I urge Senate President Sweeney to move forward with my bill even if he has given up on his own. Let’s at least get done what we know we can get done to keep our children safe.”
Holzapfel previously urged the Senate President to post either bill for a vote, noting that he would support the Senate President’s legislation with the Governor’s recommendations if it were posted.