Assembly Panel Advances Bill To Increase Penalties For Bringing Guns To School

TRENTON – An Assembly committee on Thursday advanced legislation that increases the penalty for illegally carrying a firearm in school buildings and grounds.

“We send our children to school so they can exercise their right to an education and a better way of life,” said Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union). “We should not have to worry about whether they’ll return home at the end of the day. It seems as if every week we read about another senseless tragedy involving gun violence in our schools. The only way to be proactive against this threat is to combine vigilance with a tougher, no-nonsense approach to weapons possession.”

The bill (A-1216) increase the penalty for possessing a firearm in or upon any part of the buildings or grounds of any school, college, university or other educational institution without the written authorization of the governing officer of the institution.

Under current law, the unlawful possession of a firearm in or upon the buildings or grounds of any educational institution is a crime of the third degree. A crime of the third is punishable by imprisonment for a term of three to five years, a fine of up to $15,000 or both.

This bill would upgrade the penalty to a crime of the second degree, which is punishable by a term of imprisonment of five to 10 years, a fine of up to $150,000 or both.

Upgrading the penalty for this particular firearms violation would bring it into conformance with the penalties currently imposed for the possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose (subsection a. of N.J.S.2C:39-4) and the unlawful possession of a handgun (subsection b. of N.J.S.2C:39-5).

The measure was approved by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.

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