Following the Newtown tragedy, Connecticut legislators led the charge on the gun control debate. Since then, the battle has shifted south to New Jersey, where parents of the Sandy Hook victims rallied for stricter gun control laws.
The parents were met with angry speeches and unhappy protestors. Gun rights supporters rallied against the new gun control measures at a public hearing at the Statehouse.
At the heart of the debate was a set of gun control bills approved by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee. A bill that restricts the maximum size of magazines from 15 rounds to 10 rounds was conspicuously absent from the package.
The Sandy Hook parents and other parents want a stricter limit on magazine sizes, but gun rights advocates and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) have been putting up a fight. Sweeney said in a statement, “Twenty years ago, New Jersey implemented a limit on the size of ammunition clips. For two decades that limit has been effective. What we must focus on now is preventing guns from getting into the hands of those who should not have them. That means addressing issues of mental health, background checks, illegal guns, and straw purchases."
The rhetoric at the meeting was vicious to say the least. Gun owner Gleen Darwell of Forked River told legislators, "If you make me a criminal, I will stand once more and fulfill the Constitution. If my blood is in the street, it’s on your hands." State troopers later escorted Darwell out of the meeting after he said, “This hearing’s out of order.”
The assembly took public statements for four full hours before they stopped hearing new testimony. Angry gun rights advocates demanded an opportunity to speak and then the group spontaneously recited the Pledge of Allegiance.
Proponents of the gun control legislation, on the other hand, applauded the legislators. “It is a good start but it needs to be complete by adding the 10-round limit for magazines that our citizens want and have demanded,” said BlueWaveNJ President Marcia Marley. Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald added that “The difference between 15 and 10 could be your child.”
California has famously (or infamously, depending on your political affiliation) been the biggest advocate of gun control, but following New England’s recent flurry of gun control activity New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut may become a gun control trifecta that rivals the Golden State.