More than three-quarters of the guns used in shootings and other crimes in the first three months of 2018 in New Jersey originated from sales outside the state, according to the first statewide report on firearms and gun-related crimes issued Tuesday.
For the second day in a row, Gov. Phil Murphy has publicized his efforts at gun control. It was just 32 days ago that he signed an executive order mandating the release online of statistics about guns used in crimes in regular report.
According to the first monthly report, 93 people were shot, 17 of them killed, in April alone. New Jersey has among the toughest gun-control laws in the nation.
“Our goal is to shine a bright light on the epidemic of gun violence in New Jersey,” Murphy said in unveiling the GUNStat reports and announcing their findings at a press conference with gun-control advocates and others in Hackensack. “So far in New Jersey in 2018, every county has experienced multiple gun crimes … The statistics we release today show that gun violence is not someone else’s problem. It’s our problem.”
Deeper dive into gun data
New Jersey has been reporting some data about crimes committed with guns — most notably, robbery and assault with a firearm — on the Uniform Crime Report, which is updated weekly throughout the year. But the state previously had not pulled together information on all crimes committed with guns, as well as guns found at crime scenes or turned in after being abandoned or discarded. Similar data on the type of guns recovered and their origin are available from annual reports completed by the federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms.
The new GUNStat reports will provide more current and monthly data on the number of guns recovered by county and municipality, for those with a significant number of offenses; type and caliber of guns recovered; number of individuals arrested with more than one firearm; and number of people shot and whether they were injured or killed. They will also give quarterly reports on the “source states” of guns used in a crime or otherwise recovered.
In providing that data for the first time, Murphy called out several states — North Carolina and Georgia, in particular — where large numbers of what the state police call crime guns were originally sold. More than 50 recovered guns in New Jersey were traced to each of those states. The state where most of the crime guns from the first three months of this year were sold was Pennsylvania, from which 83 originated.
“The sources of the guns used in the commission of these crimes, they continue to come overwhelmingly from out of state, more than 77 percent of them, and predominantly from states with lax gun laws which do not put the level of scrutiny on gun buyers that we do,” Murphy said. “The Iron Pipeline is alive and well, with 230 guns flowing into New Jersey from the states along the I-95 corridor.”
While the State Police did not report the total number of crime guns that were purchased in New Jersey, law enforcement traced about 125 out of a total of 542. The GUNStat data, although up to date, was similar to the most recent ATF data, which found that in 2016 about 79 percent of 2,477 guns traced were purchased in other states.
An important step
Fred Guttenberg, who has become a gun-control activist since his daughter was killed in the Valentine’s Day mass shooting at high school in Parkland, FL, called the state’s new reports an important step in getting more states and, eventually, the federal government to enact stricter gun control laws.
“This is why it’s so hard, because nobody really studies the impact,” said Guttenberg, who also spoke at the press conference. “The guns don’t come from New Jersey, for the most part, and people need to know that.”
Acting State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan said the state’s border crossings “don’t mean anything to these criminals.”
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said all levels of law enforcement will continue to work together, including with the ATF, to combat gun trafficking.
“It is important that we work together to take on gun crime — that we work with our county and local law enforcement partners to track every crime gun in New Jersey and work with our county prosecutors to get traffickers off the street,” he said. “And that the ATF, a central partner in this fight, continue to investigate straw purchasers and bad faith dealers in other states because what takes place in North Carolina or Georgia affects us here in New Jersey. This issue is national, and knows no borders.”
Murphy noted New Jersey is part of a multistate compact working on solutions to gun crimes, but said the state also wants to work with other states on the issue or at least call out those states with less restrictive gun control laws that are contributing to New Jersey’s problems with gun violence.
“We’re gonna name and shame,” Murphy said. “I’m sick of our mostly young persons getting either wounded or killed by guns that are illegally trafficked into New Jersey … We’re not gonna take it anymore.”
The data is only the latest Murphy effort in the war on guns. On Monday, he named William Castner to be a senior adviser on firearms issues and said Castner will be part of a meeting today at state police headquarters with other members of the Coalition of States for Gun Safety. Murphy in February announced that New Jersey was joining with New York, Connecticut and other states to found the coalition. Murphy has also tightened restrictions on the concealed carrying of handguns in New Jersey and announced the state pension system’s divestment of its holdings in a manufacturer of semi-automatic rifles for civilian use.
The governor also has promised to sign a package of Democratic-sponsored bills that would further strengthen gun-control laws. The bills include greater restrictions on private gun sales and a ban on armor-piercing ammunition. Many of these bills, some of which were vetoed by former Gov. Chris Christie, have already been passed by the Assembly. They are expected to be considered by the Senate in the next few weeks.
These first monthly GUNStat reports indicate that most of the crime guns — 57 in total — were 9 mm weapons, followed by 35 .22 caliber guns and 30 .38 caliber weapons.
Those guns were recovered in all but one county, Sussex, with the most by far (59) recovered in Essex. Of those 59, 44 were in Newark, the most of any municipality. Not surprisingly, the cities of Camden, Trenton, Paterson, and Jersey City all had at least 10 crime guns last month. But the report also showed four guns were used or recovered in the less urban municipalities of Villas, Parsippany, North Bergen, and Folsom. Municipalities with fewer than four gun crimes were not listed.