TRENTON – One of the most conservative members of the state Senate has called Gov. Phil Murphy’s push for stricter gun laws a tactic “to divert attention from all the damage he’s done to New Jersey over the past year.”  

Sen. Michael Doherty, R-Washington, said in a news release that Murphy’s campaign for stricter gun laws would add burdens to legal gun owners and put rural residents at risk.

“Unfortunately for the governor, he can’t escape his record of shutting down businesses unnecessarily, destroying 2 million jobs, and mismanaging the unemployment system and MVC (Motor Vehicle Commission),” said Doherty, whose district extends from South Bound Brook to the Delaware River, including Bridgewater.

Sen. Michael Doherty
Sen. Michael Doherty

Doherty said Murphy’s recommendation would endanger residents who live in sparsely populated rural areas with no local police coverage who depend on State Police.

“I spoke recently with a constituent from a rural community who was the victim of a home invasion,” Doherty said. “After he called for help, it took the State Police half an hour to arrive. Governor Murphy doesn’t seem to understand that many rural New Jerseyans have only themselves to depend upon in emergencies. Not everyone lives in a mansion in a wealthy enclave with police officers a few seconds away.”

Doherty added New Jersey already has the second strictest gun laws in the United States and the third-lowest rate of gun deaths, according to the Giffords Law Center.

Last Thursday, the Democratic governor, who is up for re-election this year, pushed for new gun laws to solidify New Jersey’s status as one of the most restrictive in the nation for firearms.

The move came just a day before a gunman killed at least eight at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, critically wounding several others. 

The shooting in Indianapolis came after a pair of shootings last week – one in South Carolina that left six people dead, including the gunman, former NFL player Phillip Adams, and another at a cabinet-making facility in Texas.

Those incidents followed three high-profile mass shootings in March, beginning with a gunman’s rampage in Georgia that killed eight people at three spas in the Atlanta area on March 16. Less than a week later, a gunman killed 10 people inside a Colorado supermarket. Then, on the last day of March, four people – including a 9-year-old boy – were killed in a targeted shooting inside an office building in Southern California.

The measures include banning .50-caliber rifles, requiring training before purchasing a gun and closing a loophole allowing firearms to come in legally from other states.

Murphy also wants to spend $10 million on violence intervention programs and another $2 million on gun violence research and regulating school shooting drills.

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Mike Deak is a reporter for