Attempting to move forward in the wake of tragedy, both United States senators from New Jersey have joined forces with a group of other Democratic senators in introducing new legislation to amend the nation’s gun laws.
On Thursday, Oct. 5., Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker took the leap and introduced two new pieces of gun control legislation. According to a statement made via email by Tom Pietrykoski, Booker’s press secretary, “The first would ban bump stocks and close the loophole allowing gun sales without a background check. The second would ban the importation, sale, manufacture, transfer, or possession of gun magazines that hold more than ten rounds of ammunition.”
Specifically, the first bill, the Background Check Completion Act, would require a complete background check on any buyer purchasing a gun from a federally licensed dealer; the second bill, the Automatic Gun Fire Prevention Act, would “ban the sale, transfer, importation, manufacture or possession of bump stocks, trigger cranks and similar accessories that accelerate a semi-automatic rifle’s rate of fire,” according to a statement put out last Thursday. The bill specifically targets accessories that increase a semi-automatic rifle’s rate of fire, though there are exemptions for legitimate accessories used by hunters, as well as for lawful possession of those items either by the government or by law enforcement.
The bills come in direct response to the recent tragic shooting in Las Vegas. Bump stocks were used by the Vegas shooter, and thus the senators are pushing for the legislation in the hopes that it could prevent future tragedies from happening again. The NRA recently came out in support of the legislation as well, although it should be noted that there remain ways to increase rate of fire other than those that are banned in the bill.
“As the people’s elected representatives, we have a moral obligation to put in place policies to prevent massacres like this one in the future,” said Menendez in a press release. “It’s time to close background check loopholes."
Both legislative efforts being pursued by Menendez and Booker are mainly concerned with fixing regulation pertaining to gun control and making it more effective.
But according to Stanley Katz, professor of public and international affairs at the University, legislation may not be quite enough.
“What I concluded when I studied the problem, and it was a long time ago, made me despair of effective control,” Katz remarked. “I do believe it is a public education issue; I don’t think we do a good job of that to the extent that it’s perceived as an ‘NRA problem’ or a problem political theory or rights. I think we’re not addressing the important issues, and so I would hope we find better ways of creating a public discourse on violence in American society. I think that’s the problem.”
Sebastian Quiroz ‘20, vice president of the Princeton College Democrats, was skeptical about the legislation, but expressed hope for its success. Although he supports both bills, he is concerned that they deal only with very specific cases and do nothing to address private purchases of firearms or with handguns.
“I do think limiting access to bump stocks in general and other devices like that is important,” said Quiroz. “As far as the background checks … [this legislation] is not a universal background check. It doesn’t include checks for gun shows and other sorts of purchases like that. So while I do think it’s a step in the right direction, I don’t think we’re anywhere where we need to be in terms of regulating access to firearms.”
The Princeton College Republicans and the Office of Senator Menendez did not respond to requests for comment.