New Jersey’s gun laws are some of the most stringent in the nation. However, in a recent push to further harden these laws Governor Phil Murphy announced a plan to improve transparency about the use of guns in crimes committed in the Garden State. Reports have shown that 77% of the firearms that have been used to commit crimes in New Jersey have out-of-state origins.
The New Jersey State Police along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) supplied this eye-opening information. The reports also revealed that 83 of the guns used in NJ crimes during the first quarter of 2018 were brought into the state from neighboring Pennsylvania. Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia were other sources of high numbers of trafficked guns.
Where are the Guns Coming From?
The breakdown of guns imported from other states was revealing:
- 83 guns from Pennsylvania
- 59 guns from Georgia
- 58 guns from North Carolina
- 47 guns from Virginia
- 42 guns from South Carolina
- 24 guns from Florida
- 13 guns from Ohio
- 11 guns from West Virginia
- Eight guns from New York
- Eight guns from Tennessee
NJ Governor Signs Executive Order for Gun Statistic Transparency
Gov. Murphy signed an executive order in April of this year to publish vital information about guns recovered in the state. The information is to be made available on the website of the Department of Law and Public Safety, as well as that of the New Jersey State Police.
Executive Order #21 cites crimes committed using firearms, including school shootings, as “not a new problem” but one worthy of public awareness. The EO goes on to chastise the Federal Government for not having done enough to combat the problem. The ultimate goal of the order is “to increase public awareness of the impact of gun violence on their communities and the effects of firearms trafficking into New Jersey.”
Critics of the reports complain that the goal is instead to shame other states into altering their current firearms policies. Some argue that the reporting will not give any mention of the positive aspects of legal gun ownership.
A statement made by the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs claimed, “The reporting would be entirely one-sided, and would completely ignore reporting of the hundreds of thousands of times each year nationwide that the mere presence of a legal firearm stops crime, often without a shot fired.”
Tracing Gun-Related Crimes Committed in the Garden State
An ATF report from 2016 documented 3,918 guns in the state of New Jersey with only 521 purchased locally. A total of 56 firearms were found to be linked to homicides. The majority of the firearms traced in New Jersey were pistols. However, earlier this year Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal reported a grand jury indicted seven defendants on charges of first-degree racketeering related to the trafficking of black market guns, which included assault rifles. They purchased those firearms in Ohio.
Urban areas of New Jersey have the most gun-related crimes committed, with the majority of crimes in the following cities:
- Jersey City
New Jersey’s Gun Control Goals
The Governor’s administration feels that a regular data dump of gun statistics in the state will help residents better grasp the impact of gun violence on communities. Guns were responsible for 500 deaths in the state in 2016, according to statistics. Ninety-three people were shot in April of 2018 alone, with 17 fatalities. The goal is to reduce this number with improved anti-gun measures. The so-called “name-and-shame” initiative hopes to ultimately put an end to crimes committed with illegally trafficked firearms.
Executive Order #21 detailed long-standing statistics regarding gun-related deaths in America, mentioning that there have been 300 school shootings since the Sandy Hook tragedy in 2012. The governor wishes to reduce the number of crimes committed with guns and to see to it that New Jersey “will continue to be at the forefront of the fight against gun violence and gun crimes.”
But Murphy’s laws don’t stop there. Recently the Governor signed six new gun-control initiatives into law. The new laws force reduced magazine capacity, tougher handgun permit qualification process, expanded background checks, a ban on armor-piercing bullets, and measures to keep firearms out of reach for people who are seen to be a threat to themselves and others.
Leading by Example
The administration hopes increased public reporting of New Jersey’s crime-related gun statistics will have a positive impact on lawmakers in other states. Likewise, they hope to garner attention on the federal level, as well.
Fred Guttenberg, a father of a victim of the Parkland high school shooting, attended the press conference announcing New Jersey’s first quarter crime stats. He lauded the State’s efforts on gun control and said he hopes other states will follow suit.
Will the Governor’s initiatives promote more stringent gun laws in other states? It may be unlikely, but highlighting the gun control issue may please the state’s voters and law enforcement community.