Early Saturday morning two men shot 10 people, five men and five women, in a drive-by outside a bar and liquor store in Trenton. Two days later, five people were wounded and one died in another shooting in the capital city.
By coincidence, Gov. Phil Murphy had a gun control roundtable scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. Around the table sat urban mayors, legislators, and gun control activists. The governor pledged state and federal assets to assist the city and bemoaned the lax laws in other states that allow a flood of handguns into New Jersey.
“More than 80 percent of the crime guns used in New Jersey came from out of state. The overwhelming majority flowed into New Jersey along the I-95, or so-called Iron Pipeline, from states with weaker gun laws and regulations. Our goal is to ensure that this is a summer of safety in our communities, and that begins with community-based nonviolence initiatives and with getting to root causes of this epidemic,” Murphy said.
Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora seemed shell shocked. He said six more shootings had taken place overnight. Other mayors were sympathetic.
“These guns don’t grow legs and just appear in Paterson. They got here somehow and they’re getting in the wrong hands,” said Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh. “Reed, I just want to let you know we’re in this together. All of us.”
Trenton state Sen. Shirley Turner said it’s all about resources and young people.
“No child is ever born saying ‘I want to be a gangbanger when I grow up.’ But we have in our urban areas, and particularly in our city of Trenton, so much poverty, and so little hope and so few resources,” Turner said.
At the start, participants deplored the violence but didn’t offer much in the way of solutions. As the conversation rolled on, some real answers emerged. Things like more prisoner re-entry programs, more after-school programs, more police assets being thrown at the problem, going after the supply of guns.
“For almost every single one of these guns that is recovered in a crime, there is a point where it leaves the legal market, where it was legally purchased and legally sold at some point and enters the illegal market. And so taking a supply-side approach is working with partners like the ones at Rutgers, that you’ll hear about, to look at the unique circumstances, the unique supply chains, the demographics, the urban environments,” said Kyleanne Hunter, vice president of programs at the Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
Also, going after the small number of gun dealers who are bad actors.
“Something as simple as background checks of its employees, training gun dealers to identify straw purchasers, having dealers purchase insurance against the theft of firearms, sometimes restricting the sale of certain type of firearms, sometimes restricting the sale of firearms to those under age 21,” said Bill Castner, senior adviser to the governor on firearms.
The shooting outside the bar was the second mass shooting in a Trenton in a year. Thirty people were shot at an all-night art fair last year. Turner warned it’s going to be a long, hot summer.