Governor praises lawmakers for advancing gun control bills

TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey's governor praised lawmakers on Monday for advancing gun control measures, including legislation to prohibit the purchase of firearms parts used to make untraceable weapons, or so-called ghost guns.

"As gun violence continues to plague our country, New Jersey will lead the way by setting a higher standard for gun safety," Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, said in a statement. He stopped short of saying he would sign the measures, but called on the Democrat-led Senate to pass them. Senate President Steve Sweeney has said he intends to take up the bills.

The Senate law and public safety committee approved the measures after more than five hours of testimony. The panel also advanced a half-dozen gun control measures that have cleared the Democrat-controlled Assembly, among those are bills to limit magazines from 15 to 10 rounds.

Murphy has called for tightening the state's already-strict gun laws as part of his self-styled progressive agenda.

The ghost gun bill calls for barring the purchase of separate parts or kits that could be used to manufacture a firearm that cannot be traced by law enforcement.

"This 'do it yourself' method of assembling these 'ghost guns' allows the owner to avoid the laws and regulations that are meant to keep firearms out of the hands of those who pose a danger to themselves or others," Democratic state Sen. Joe Cryan said in a statement.

Lawmakers said the part of the inspiration for the legislation stemmed from the 2017 case of a northern California rampage that resulted in the deaths of five people, in addition to the gunman. Authorities said they believed the two high-powered rifles were made by the gunman.

It is already unlawful to make a handgun, rifle or shotgun without a license, and manufacturing a machine gun, sawed-off shotgun or assault firearm is also illegal.

The measure would make the purchase of firearm parts to manufacture an untraceable firearm a third-degree crime, punishable by a three- to five-year prison sentence, a fine of up to $15,000, or both.

Scott Bach, the executive director of the New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, which supports Second Amendment rights, said his group is still reviewing the measure and declined to comment.

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