Newtown Families Urge New Jersey to Lower Gun Capacity

Families of schoolchildren slain by a gunman in Newtown, Connecticut, urged New Jersey lawmakers to include a reduction in the size of ammunition magazines as part of their response to the shootings.

The appearance today at the Capitol in Trenton came before a Senate committee backed seven gun-control measures. The Assembly approved a 22-bill package in February, including one that would lower the magazine capacity of semiautomatic weapons to 10 rounds from 15. The Senate package doesn’t include that measure. Democrats control both houses.

“Have the courage to stand up for what you know is right,” Nicole Hockley urged New Jersey lawmakers. Her 6-year-old son, Dylan, was killed in the Newtown massacre.

Federal lawmakers and U.S. states are reconsidering gun laws in response to the Dec. 14 Newtown shootings, which claimed the lives of 26 children and educators at an elementary school, plus gunman Adam Lanza and his mother.

Lanza showed up at the school with 10 30-round ammunition magazines. Hockley said she will always wonder whether the death toll would have been lower had Lanza been forced to pause more often to reload.

The politics of gun control are intruding on campaign season in New Jersey, where Governor Chris Christie and all 120 legislators are up for re-election in November. Christie, a 50-year-old Republican, is seeking a second term.

Christie Response

In his response to Newtown, Christie this month proposed expanded background checks for gun purchases, parental consent for minors to buy violent video games and making it easier for doctors and courts to commit “potentially dangerous” people to mental-health institutions against their will. He also supports a ban on the Barrett .50-caliber sniper rifle and identical models.

Christie’s plan doesn’t address the magazine issue in New Jersey, which has the third-strictest capacity laws in the U.S., according to a release from his office. Forty-three states have no capacity laws, according to his office.

Senate President Steve Sweeney, a Democrat from West Deptford, said in a statement that New Jersey’s existing limit on clip size “has been effective” for 20 years.

“What we must focus on now is preventing guns from getting into the hands of those who should not have them,” Sweeney said. “That means addressing issues of mental health, background checks, illegal guns and straw purchases.”

‘Shameful Day’

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, a Democrat from Teaneck, said she will continue to press the members of her chamber to support the capacity reduction and hopes for approval by the end of the year.

“I can’t say ’signed into law,’” she said, in a reference to Christie. His spokesmen, Colin Reed and Michael Drewniak, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment on whether he would support a smaller magazine capacity.

New Jersey’s proposed laws won’t prevent “someone bent on evil,” according to Scott L. Bach, executive director of the New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs and a board member of the National Rifle Association, the nation’s biggest gun-rights organization.

“Criminals and madmen do not follow laws,” Bach told the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee before it released the bills for a Senate vote.

Defending Herself

Nora Craig, a U.S. Navy veteran and farmer from Franklin Township, New Jersey, told the panel it was her job, not that of lawmakers, to defend herself with legally owned firearms.

“If my dogs don’t get them, I will,” she said of trespassers on her property.

The U.S. Senate on April 17 defeated a plan for expanded background checks for gun purchasers. Some Newtown family members joined President Barack Obama in the White House Rose Garden after the Senate’s vote as the president called the defeat “all, in all, a shameful day for Washington.”

“What happened in Newtown can happen in any town,” Nelba Marquez-Greene said today as she called for a reduction in magazine capacity. Her 6-year-old daughter, Ana, was killed in Newtown.

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