Dan Cruz, a Republican candidate who attempted to unseat State Senator Oroho in the 2021 primary, is running again, looking to oust US Senator Robert Menendez when the senator’s term is up in 2024. While he has national aspirations, Cruz is also monitoring state legislation and recently took aim at Assemblyman Joseph Danielsen’s gun control legislation (A-4769) which introduces higher fees for obtaining a firearms ID, new ownership requirements for concealed carry permits for handguns, and includes an exhaustive list of locations where firearms cannot be carried, among other elements. The contentious bill was highlighted by fiery exchanges between the sponsor and Republican opponents, most notably Assemblyman Brian Bergen. The bill also requires those who obtain a concealed carry permit to buy insurance, to which one Assembly Republican claimed is impossible to actually find in New Jersey.
As expected, the bill passed through the Assembly where Democrats hold a majority.
Cruz, a native of Paterson now living in Sussex County, spoke before the State Senate against the bill and took particular umbrage with language he said was employed by Assemblyman John McKeon. Cruz charged that the legislation was not only ineffective and impractical, but was inherently racist by making it harder for disadvantaged urban communities to afford to exercise their legal rights to gun ownership.
The bill itself comes as a response to the US Supreme Court ruling of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v Bruen. Previously, New Jersey had been a state in which applicants for a concealed carry permit had to demonstrate a “justifiable need” in order to get one. The Supreme Court ruling, however, struck the requirement for a justifiable need down as unconstitutional. Democratic lawmakers responded in turn with new legislation.
“I was born and raised in Paterson, New Jersey,” Cruz said, “and I was once labeled a juvenile delinquent, yet here I am today speaking in front of you guys, but only because something bothered me in the last few weeks. ‘Does anyone really want to put more guns in the hands of people who live in Paterson, Newark, Elizabeth, and Camden to say, oh, the money you’re charging isn’t fair?’ said State Assemblyman John McKeon. Those statements were appalling, out of line. What does that mean? That people in Paterson and Newark cannot have any guns or cannot apply for a concealed permit?”
Cruz continued, “I have a business with my wife. We do deliveries all times of the day in different cities and towns in the state of New Jersey. Just because there are people in the city who are unsafe doesn’t mean you’re going to have people every day out there with guns. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re criminals out there now, carrying guns. Every time I’m in the city of Paterson or in the south side of Newark, I have to watch my back and look behind me. So, why not give the same opportunities to the people in the inner city? To have the right to bear arms?”
Other priorities, such as contending with the high costs of gasoline occupy New Jersey’s urban residents’ minds, Cruz said as he decried the increase in fees for obtaining firearms. “They’re not thinking about this bill. Most of those people don’t even know this bill exists. The statement State Assemblyman John McKeon said was utterly racist. For some of us, who sit here and did not say anything to the State Assemblyman about his comments, you are a part of the problem as well. Had that been a Republican, you would have had a field day in the media, calling the Republican a racist. Please review the bill, look at the bill.”
Cruz cited incidents in Paterson and Newark involving recent gun crimes, including a bust of 15 individuals caught selling illegal weapons and a student who brought a gun into a Newark high school. “This doesn’t mean this is going to stop illegal guns in our state,” Cruz said of the bill. He concluded his remarks, saying, “Law-abiding responsible citizens deserve the right to bear arms.”