December 7, 2017 In The News

Concealed-carry bill is NRA dream, NJ nightmare

Newtown. Orlando. Las Vegas. San Bernardino. Aurora. We know the names. They are just some of the American towns and cities that are now symbols of the out-of-control gun violence epidemic in our country.

Until now, the Republicans who control Congress have reacted by holding a moment of silence after each and every mass shooting – then doing absolutely nothing to stop the next one. Now they are finally taking action, and they’re about to make the problem much worse.

House Republicans on Wednesday voted for the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which will force New Jersey to honor concealed carry rules – or the lack thereof – from every other state in the nation. This means anyone from any state that allows residents to carry a firearm and hide it from view can come to New Jersey and do it here even though our citizens have decided we don’t want that in our communities.

In effect, our state’s ability to enforce our own gun safety measures how we see fit will be overruled. What happened to state’s rights? Republicans rail against the Affordable Care Act for its alleged “federal overreach.” Why, in this case, are Republicans perfectly fine overriding the public safety decisions made by New Jersey officials and citizens? There’s a sad, easy answer: because the National Rifle Association told them to.

This bill is an NRA dream, but a New Jersey nightmare. We must publicly and loudly ask every one of these Republicans: Is it the NRA or the USA? New Jersey wants gun safety, not gun violence. We need to stand up for the victims, not the gun lobbyists.

But if this bill passes, criminals from other states can enter our New Jersey stores, churches, parks and offices with guns. Pennsylvania residents convicted of certain violent crimes can still obtain concealed carry permits. Now they can drive over the bridge and – legally – walk our streets with dangerous weapons hidden under their coats.

Moreover, New Jerseyans with criminal intent can use other states’ loose laws to their advantage. A disgruntled employee in New Jersey can get a concealed carry permit mailed to them from Arizona then use it to come to work secretly armed.

It gets worse. If a New Jersey police officer detains someone for concealing a weapon, and it turns out that person is following another state’s laws, the officer can get sued in federal court. Camden County Metro Police Chief Scott Thomson tells me he is seriously concerned this puts his officers in an impossible situation.

Tougher for police officers and easier for criminals – that’s a big step in the wrong direction. We should be taking actions to help reduce gun violence. For example, we can reinstate our national assault weapons ban, outlaw those on the terrorist watch list from legally buying guns, and institute universal background checks for every single gun purchase in our country.

Last year, following the Orlando massacre, I joined Congressman John Lewis on the House floor to simply ask for a vote on any of these common-sense solutions. Since then, there have been hundreds more mass shootings, and now this bill is the Republican leadership’s response.

Earlier this year I sat down with a mother whose daughter was shot during the Virginia Tech massacre. I wanted to tell her that we in Congress were fixing this. I wanted to tell her that 10 years after her daughter was brutally, senselessly shot, there had been progress to prevent these tragedies. Instead, we spoke about how the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act would likely move forward and make shootings, like her daughter’s, more likely. That conversation broke my heart, but strengthened my resolve to fight.

We can do more and we can do better. First, we need to clean house and get rid of any so-called “leader” that won’t stand up for New Jersey, for public safety and for common sense.

U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross, a Democrat from Camden, represents New Jersey’s 1st Congressional District.

Read the full story on Courier Post here.