NJ law chief says NJ laws not threatened by ruling

June 26, 2008 11:37:11 AM PDT
The New Jersey attorney general and a gun control advocate said the state's tough firearms laws are not threatened by Thursday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a handgun ban in the District of Columbia. "We believe the court affirmed the right of states to regulate gun ownership to protect public safety and endorsed commonsense licensing of firearms and concealed-weapons restrictions like we have in New Jersey," Attorney General Anne Milgram said in a statement.

"We regulate the possession of handguns - we don't ban handguns. But we have strict licensing requirements and we are prepared to maintain those requirements and vigorously enforce our laws," Milgram said.

The gun control advocate, Ceasefire NJ executive director Bryan Miller, agreed that the high court on Thursday upheld weapons regulation, and believes any new challenge to New Jersey's assault weapon ban would fail.

While disappointed that the district's handgun ban was overturned and that individual rights to gun ownership were affirmed in the ruling, Miller added, "But in practical terms, neither of those affect us in New Jersey. In practical terms, the court affirmed licensing and registration in New Jersey."

New Jersey does not ban handguns, but requires purchasers of any firearm to obtain a permit before purchase. Federal law only requires purchasers have an "instant" background check at the time of purchase.

The state in 1990 banned ownership of semiautomatic assault weapons, and the U.S. Supreme Court in 2001 declined to hear a challenge to that law. Sales of automatic weapons - machine guns - are restricted by federal law.

Thursday's ruling was welcomed at Efinger Sporting Goods in central New Jersey, where gun department manager Alex Andriuk sells rifles, shotguns and handguns.

"It's good that there's a mandate from the Supreme Court that supports the private ownership of handguns," Andriuk said from the Bound Brook store. "Ownership of a handgun is not an inherently evil thing."

However, Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J., author of a law barring domestic abusers from having firearms, criticized the ruling and said he would continue pushing for a law to close gun show exceptions to regulations.

"This decision illustrates why I have strongly opposed extremist judicial nominees and will continue to do so in the future," said Lautenberg, who is seeking re-election in November.

A National Rifle Association representative in New Jersey declined to comment on the ruling. The NRA now plans to file lawsuits challenging handgun restrictions in San Francisco and Chicago.

On the Net:

Ceasefire NJ: http://www.ceasefirenj.com/index.htm