Former New Jersey Gov. Jim Florio has joined in the debate about the state's gun laws.

Florio, who spearheaded the enactment of New Jersey's assault weapons ban in 1990, says it's time to tighten gun laws in the Garden State.

He says gun violence now amounts to a public health epidemic.

Florio is joining other members of a gun violence-prevention coalition in urging the state Senate act on the package of gun-control bills the Assembly passed last week.

"The traditional approach of the NRA and the gun lobby, when they're under stress as they are now, is to stall, to run out the clock, wait for people to become disengaged again," Florio said Monday. "We can't allow that to happen."

It's common sense to create weapons-free school zones and enact other laws to help prevent violence, says Wendell Steinhauer, vice president of the New Jersey Education Association.

"We urge the Senate to take quick action on these bills and we urge the governor to show that he puts the interests of children and safe communities ahead of the lobbyists for the gun industry by signing them promptly," Steinhauer said.

Senate President Steve Sweeney has indicated the Senate will consider at least some of the gun bills by April. It's uncertain whether Gov. Chris Christie would sign any of them into law.

With nationwide attention on recent gun violence, Florio says, taking action is vital.

"The NRA and the gun lobby is largely supported by the gun manufacturers and the gun dealers. So this comes down really to one word: money, profit," he said. "To the degree that we become engaged, we can combat that, and I think it's important to do so."