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New Jersey Gun Hearing Overtaken By Procedural Debate, Suggestion For Lawmakers

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Members of the New Jersey Legislature were told Wednesday by a Second Amendment advocate that lawmakers -- not gun owners -- are the ones who need to undergo psychological background checks.

The committee held a daylong hearing Wednesday on a series of gun control issues backed by state legislative Democrats.

Frank Jack Fiamingo, the president of the New Jersey Second Amendment Society, said that legislation to mandate reporting those with mental illnesses to an FBI registry banning gun ownership is unnecessary. Fiamingo told the state Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee that his concern is not the mental health of gun owners, but rather that of the legislators.

"I believe that the Assembly and Senate should be submitted to psychological background checks," he told lawmakers.

Fiamingo and his allies in the Second Amendment Society are telling committee members that the series of measures, which include increased mental health checks, bans on high-capacity magazines and banning people on the terrorism watch list from buying guns. Second Amendment advocates told committee members that New Jersey residents need high-capacity magazines to combat "a gang of armed thugs" who conduct middle-of-the-night home invasions. The advocates also said that criminals will "laugh" at people who are not armed.

Fiamingo told lawmakers that the main point of the Second Amendment is to provide protections against politicians.

"The point is the protection of the people," Fiamingo said. "It is about life, love and liberty."

Ryan McBeth, a Second Amendment Society member, told lawmakers that he was surprised to be testifying for the group as a liberal Jewish resident of Cherry Hill, but that a ban on high-capacity magazines would kill the New Jersey economy. McBeth said that he likes to hire veterans and people from other states including Ohio and Texas to work as computer programmers, but they do not want to live in New Jersey because of the gun laws.

"They don't want to work in this state because they can't carry their guns," McBeth said.

The Democrat-controlled committee is expected to pass the package of bills proposed by Democratic leaders last week. The hearing stopped on several occasions for debate over procedural issues, including a decision by Assemblyman Charles Mainor (D-Jersey City), the committee chairman, to have votes on each bill before hearing those who wanted to testify on all the bills instead of specific bills. Mainor changed the rules after objections from Republicans, but not before the committee passed several bills.

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