TRENTON, N.J. — The parents of four of the 20 children killed in the Connecticut school shootings in December stood with the New Jersey Assembly on Tuesday to urge the Senate to limit the number of bullets in ammunition magazines.
Their plea came as a Senate committee considered several measures designed to strengthen state gun laws — but not a proposal to limit magazine capacity to 10 bullets, five less than state law now allows. The Assembly passed the bill in February.
Nelba Marquez-Greene, whose daughter, Ana, was among those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, reminded lawmakers that 11 children were able to escape as shooter Adam Lanza reloaded. Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald noted the 13th bullet in a magazine killed Christina-Taylor Green, the 9-year-old who died in the Tuscon, Ariz., shooting that wounded U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords.
"I support the 2nd Amendment and I have no interest in taking away anyone's gun rights, but I know that outside of a shooting range, the only use for large capacity magazines is to kill as many people as possible," Marques-Greene said at a Statehouse news conference. "Limiting the sale of high-capacity magazines does not affect a hunter's ability to enjoy their sport. While there are many unanswered questions about Dec. 14, we know that lives have been saved when a shooter has had to stop and reload."
Although New Jersey already has the second-strictest gun laws in the country, behind only New York, each branch of the Democrat-led Legislature and Republican Gov. Chris Christie have proposed separate packages of gun violence bills designed to close loopholes in current laws, to address mental illness and gun ownership, and to strengthen penalties for gun trafficking. One of Christie's bills requires parental consent for a minor to buy or rent some violent video games; the Senate version proposes parents be educated about violent videos because some legal scholars say Christie's proposal won't stand up in court.
Only the Assembly has moved to limit magazine capacity. It's part of a 22-bill package the chamber fast-tracked within two months of the Newtown massacre.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney on Tuesday indicated his unwillingness to go along.
"Twenty years ago New Jersey implemented a limit on the size of ammunition (magazines). For two decades that limit has been effective," he said in a statement. "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."
Greenwald has said the Assembly should not consider the Senate bills without the magazine limit.
Two North Jersey Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Sen. Nia Gill, have introduced legislation that would limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds. But their bill is not part of Sweeney's package and it's not known whether the Senate president will agree to give the bill a hearing.
Christie hasn't said what he'd do if a magazine limit reaches his desk, but it was not among the recommendations of an anti-violence task force on which he based his recommendations.
National Rifle Association lobbyist Darin Goens, meanwhile, said the Senate hearing was typical of those he's attended in other states.
"You don't see the criminals. You don't the drug dealers (at the hearing)," he said. "They don't care what you pass. They're going to continue to break the law, no matter what we do today in this building. It's only going to affect the law-abiding citizen and it's going to do nothing to impact crime."
He said the Legislature's reaction was also typical: pass some bills so lawmakers can say they did something — even if their action will have no impact on violence.