Gun violence was the topic of a conference held at Rutgers University where several lawmakers came to discuss the state’s new Center on Gun Violence Research. Gov. Phil Murphy addressed the crowd to explain why starting the center has been a priority during his first two years in office.
“It is about treating the impact of gun violence not as a political matter, but as one of the key public health issues of our time,” Murphy said.
The governor touted his tightening of gun laws in a state that already has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. He plans to significantly increase gun registration fees, and he announced a new partnership with the Brady Center that addresses gun violence in the state’s five largest cities. But, he said, without the research, none of that is enough.
“We must look at the issue of gun safety through the prism of the devastation that gun violence has brought on communities across our state,” Murphy said.
The center’s co-director, Bernadette Hohl, says data is the key to understanding the issue and to sharing information with decision makers.
“Data is not glamorous and not very exciting to many people other than us research nerds. But the fact of the matter is that good data helps to answer questions that we have been trying to find answers for for a very long time,” said Hohl.
Rutgers President Robert Barchi said the center is the first on the East Coast and only the second in the nation. He also noted the 20th anniversary of the Columbine shooting last week.
“We’ve had 50 additional mass shootings, 10 of them occurring in high schools and colleges. Five hundred and forty-eight people killed in those episodes, and that’s just since Columbine,” Barchi said.
Congressman Frank Pallone said action has to be taken by the states, saying politics have blocked any movement on the national level.
“For the eight years or so that the Republicans were in the majority in the House, we were not allowed to have any hearings on anything related to gun research,” Pallone said. “If the science is there, and the data is there, and the research shows what can make a difference, and the public is even more informed, then we will have more information to battle those who do not want to see the gun safety measures on the federal level.”
Research isn’t quick. It could take months, even years, before the center is able to share data that could translate into policy.