Monmouth County Assembly Members Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey have signed on as sponsors of a bill that would require the notification and involvement of local law enforcement prior to the expungement of certain mental health records for those wishing to purchase firearms. A similar bill passed both houses of the Legislature with bipartisan support during the last legislative session, before being conditionally vetoed by Governor Chris Christie. An attempt to override the veto did succeed in the Senate, but ultimately failed in the General Assembly.
"Unfortunately we saw last session that many people who say they support responsible gun control legislation are not willing to follow through on their word," said Downey (D-Monmouth), "However, both Eric and I are proud to sponsor this bill, which will involve local law enforcement in the process of expungement of mental health records for prospective firearms purchasers, and ensure the safety of all residents, including the prospective gun owners themselves."
The bill (A1413) would amend the current process through which those wishing to purchase a firearm can expunge certain mental health records that would otherwise bar them from doing so. Individuals with a mental health record who are recovered, substantially improved, or in remission, may apply to a court to have their records expunged, allowing them to acquire a firearm. This legislation would provide notification of local law enforcement of these proceedings, and allow for law enforcement involvement in the petitioner's case. Law enforcement can provide useful information that may not be readily available to the court otherwise, such as criminal history or any unusual or aberrant behavior by the petitioner.
"Police officers are deeply involved in their communities, and their insight can help determine whether an individual displays any behavior that would put others at risk if they were to obtain a firearm," said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth), "And just as important, it will provide another check to ensure that someone wishing to buy a gun will not be a danger to themselves."
The bill has been introduced to the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee and awaits a vote.