New Jersey legislators have passed 17 bills to fight gun violence, says the Newark Star-Ledger. Republicans protested that the legislation does more to crack down on gun enthusiasts than gang members. The package of bills is intended to prevent gun violence, protect witnesses, and bolster police powers. New Jersey is home to more than 17,000 gang members; last year, authorities filed about 1,900 criminal cases involving gun violence.
The bills would toughen criminal sentences, and establish gang violence prevention seminars for educators and employment programs for disadvantaged youngsters. Republicans said bills that stiffen penalties for firearms possession and regulate the sale of ammunition are overly broad and shortsighted. Critics said the bills could unwittingly put someone with an unregistered pellet gun or a father who buys a BB gun for his child behind bars. “This is overkill,” said Assemblyman Richard A. Merkt, a Republican. “I would support this bill if it were directed at gangland activity.”