Gov. Chris Christie endorsed more than 30 ideas Friday that he said would reduce gun violence, including enhanced criminal penalties for gun crimes, making it easier to force people to receive mental-health treatment and limiting minors’ ability to obtain violent video games.
The package of bills Christie is sending the Legislature includes only a few that are direct gun-control measures. One would ban future purchases of the .50-caliber Barrett semi-automatic rifle. Others would enhance the instant background check done when a gun is purchased, including a new requirement that a government-issued photo identification be shown.
Foremost among those was a proposal to strengthen the ability of courts and health professionals to require someone to receive mental-health treatment, even institutionalizing people against their will. The care would be paid for by the government, Christie said, and the program would be tweaked to allow providers to move a person between inpatient and outpatient settings.
“Involuntary commitment and making it easier for mental-health professionals and courts to order that I think is something that we need to do,” he said. “It’s an uncomfortable subject, but the fact is what’s much more uncomfortable was watching that deeply disturbed young man kill 26 people in Newtown.”
A majority of Christie’s proposals were focused on law enforcement and boosting penalties for gun-related crimes. Citing the recent shooting in Toms River in which a 4-year-old boy accidentally killed his friend with a rifle, Christie called for the charge for not adequately securing a weapon to be a third-degree crime, which includes a presumption of jail time. “Most of the debate surrounding this issue, in my view, should be about how we deal with criminals,” Christie said. “Legal gun owners in this country don’t commit crimes with their firearms. They play by the rules. And they do it the right way, and they comply with the law. We have thousands of folks in New Jersey who do the same thing every year.”
More provisions include:
• Require parents or guardians to give consent in order for a minor to buy or rent a video game rated “mature” or “adult only” by the Entertainment Software Rating Board.
• Create new gun-related crimes, including selling guns to convicted criminals, possessing a gun with the intent to transfer to a person ineligible to buy a gun and using a “straw purchaser” to buy guns or ammunition.
• Impose higher penalties for things such as leading a firearms trafficking network, tampering with a firearms purchaser ID card and failing to take reasonable precautions to prevent a minor, a person with mental illness or a convicted criminal from accessing one’s firearms.
• Restrict release on bail or increase bail requirements for aggravated firearms charges.
Christie’s plan doesn’t include any mandates related to school security, other than to direct the New Jersey State Police to have troopers randomly but routinely stop by schools in the mostly rural parts of the state where the force provides local police services.
“I don’t believe we should have armed guards in school districts, but I’m not going to propose a law to prohibit it,” Christie said. “I think school districts have to think long and hard before they do it, but I don’t think there’s anything at the state level we should be doing now differently. I think we should leave this to be a local district decision.”