HACKENSACK, N.J. -- In New Jersey, law enforcement officers are required to regularly train and be certified to use their firearms -- and state legislators are trying to smooth those officers' transitions into other jobs, through a bill that's winding its way through the legislature.
Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen) co-sponsored a bill last February that adds to the categories of retired law enforcement officers who can carry handguns, and the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee advanced it on Monday.
"Regardless of the law enforcement unit with which they served, retired law enforcement officers who received proper training in the use of firearms and dedicated themselves to protecting their communities should have the right to carry a handgun," Johnson said.
He is a former Bergen County sheriff. He also served in the Englewood Police Department for more than two decades, as well as in Iraq and Bosnia, in the United States Army Reserve.
Johnson told Daily Voice one of the main reasons for amending the law is that many law enforcement officers retire and then take jobs that also require carrying a firearm. This law makes that process easier, giving retired officers greater opportunities.
"This legislation will further the intent of the original law giving retired officers the right to carry, by enabling more individuals with professional law enforcement experience to help keep New Jersey safe."
Under current law, certain types of retired law enforcement officers can apply for a permit which allows them to carry a handgun at all times. This permit must be applied for annually, and the retired officers are no longer eligible when they turn 75.
Currently, the law includes people who had worked full-time as officers with county, municipal or state police, or other state law enforcement agencies; sheriffs, undersheriffs or sheriff's officers; corrections officers; state or county park police officers; county prosecutor's detectives and investigators; and federal law enforcement officers.
The proposed law adds state park police officers, state conservation officers, university police officers, Human Services police officers, New Jersey Transit police officers, Palisades Interstate Park officers and special agents of the Division of Taxation.
Dolores Phillips, legislative director for Ceasefire New Jersey -- self-described as "the oldest and largest gun violence prevention group in New Jersey" -- told Daily Voice that her organization has no position on the bill.
"We have no problem with trained retired officers who may continue to carry handguns to age 75, and expanding such list."
She said the bill passed out of committee easily, with no debate or controversy, and she expects it will be on Gov. Chris Christie's desk later this month.
Phillips also noted that Johnson has worked closely with Ceasefire New Jersey on some very difficult gun violence prevention bills.
"And will continue to," Johnson added.
The Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee had advanced the bill last summer, and it cleared the full Assembly by a vote of 77-0 in December. After clearing this committee hurdle in the Senate, it now heads to the Senate president for further consideration.