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Interactive Map: Where ‘Crime Guns’ Have Been Recovered in New Jersey

Murphy administration compiles statistics to draw attention to its effort to hold manufacturers and dealers accountable

Shown, in addition to counties, are the 10 municipalities with the most guns recovered. Zoom in and move the map or use the search box to find a municipality. Click on a county or municipality to see data on guns recovered.

In an average month in New Jersey, 82 people are shot — 14 of them fatally — and law enforcement seizes or recovers 278 guns used to commit crimes, according to an analysis of data on illegal firearms compiled during the Murphy administration.

Providing better data was just part of the attack Gov. Phil Murphy launched on illegal guns soon after taking office 18 months ago. The first-term Democrat has also appointed a “gun czar” and signed 11 new laws further strengthening the state’s already tough gun-control statutes — including a new requirement that firearms dealers offer at least one “smart gun” for sale.

An examination of the monthly reports of gun crimes since January 2018, compiled by the State Police on the NJGUNStat website, found that law enforcement had either recovered or had turned in to them 5,012 so-called crime guns over the last 18 months. More than 1,300 people were shot — 227 of them killed — during the same time period.

The GUNStat reports also provide quarterly updates of where the firearms originated, with those reports showing that eight of 10 guns used in crimes come from out of state. Roughly 40 percent of some 3,200 firearms whose origins could be traced came from four states: Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia — more than 400 from Pennsylvania alone.

Earlier this year, officials expanded the GUNStat reports to indicate the manufacturer of guns recovered. According to this data, Smith and Wesson, Taurus and Glock are the most common firearms retrieved by or turned into law enforcement.

Effectiveness of program still unclear

Part of the purpose of the report, Murphy has repeated, is an effort to “name and shame” first the originating states and now the makers of guns used illegally in New Jersey.

“It is my hope that bringing light to this topic will encourage these manufacturers to act responsibly and work with us to stop weapons they make from ending up in the hands of dangerous criminals,” Murphy said in March when he announced the inclusion of manufacturer data in the GUNStat reports.

The effectiveness of the effort thus far is not clear from the data. The number of crime guns recovered declined by about 2 percent from the first half of 2018 to the first half of this year. On the other hand, the number of people shot in an average month during that time increased from 74 to 84, but because State Police did not post shooting data for February 2019, that observation may be skewed. The percentage of crime guns coming in from the other states has remained fairly consistent.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Law and Public Safety did not respond to a request for comment on the effectiveness of the program so far.

Gun-control advocates said that it’s still too early to evaluate the full impact of GUNStats, but they praised the effort as helping them to better focus their efforts.

“We’re at the beginning stages of this process, but we know that having as much transparent data as possible is one of the best ways to keep crime guns off of our streets,” said Carole Stiller, president of BRADY New Jersey State Council. “This is the first step in a long road towards accountability, but it’s an important one.”

“It will also help pave the way towards focusing not just on who’s using these crime guns, but who’s supplying them,” she added. “If we know which dealers are acting badly and putting guns in dangerous hands, we’ll be that much closer to keeping our communities safe.”

“I have seen more stories about guns from out of state being confiscated here,” said Brett Sabo, leader of the New Jersey chapter of Moms Demand Action. “And shining a light on that puts straw purchasers on notice.”

Phil Murphy
Credit: NJTV News
Gov. Phil Murphy signed a prohibition on “ghost guns” yesterday.

A bill Murphy signed last week takes aim at the problem of straw purchases, where a person buys a gun for another to help them avoid legal scrutiny. This new law makes it a third-degree crime for a person who is not allowed to own a firearm to solicit or entice a dealer or other individual to give him a gun.

Sabo said that having the data is helping her organization do a better job with its advocacy and is also helping lawmakers and state officials to best target their efforts at dealing with the impact of gun crimes.

“This data is definitely changing how the state and the NJ chapter of Moms is working,” she continued. “We now know that the vast majority of gun violence here takes place in five cities. New Jersey is working on passing the first state-wide hospital-based initiatives program to serve families in these cities and offer support and services. This information also allows our volunteers to plan events and recruit new members in these areas.”

No part of state is immune

The data shows no county in the state is immune to gun crimes. Hunterdon County had the smallest number of recovered guns — 37 over the last 18 months — but still had only one month where police did not take possession of an illegal weapon.

Essex led all counties with 966 firearms recovered. That was fueled by Newark’s status as the municipality with the most crime guns — 654 or an average of 36 each month during the period. But Irvington and East Orange were also among the high-ranking cities, with 63 crime guns each reported by State Police since the start of 2018.

Camden and Mercer ranked second and third, respectively, among counties, while Trenton and the City of Camden had the second and third highest number of crime guns recovered.

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