More than two thirds of the guns used in crimes this year have come into New Jersey from other states, Gov. Phil Murphy said Tuesday at another event focused on gun violence and the second in as many days to feature a prominent gun control advocate.
Murphy also expressed a willingness to dispatch his newly appointed adviser on gun violence to other states to lobby them to strengthen their gun laws in his broader effort to crack down on trafficking and gun-related crime in New Jersey.
The statistics, released by Murphy during a news conference at Hackensack Performing Arts Center, confirm what law enforcement leaders have long known: most gun crime in New Jersey is committed using a weapon originally purchased out of state.
But Murphy said that the numbers “show that gun violence is not someone else’s problem. It is our problem and we must tackle it together.”
“I’m sick of our mostly young people getting either wounded or killed by guns that were illegally trafficked into New Jersey,” he later added.
Murphy has moved on many fronts to position New Jersey, which already has some of the nation’s strongest gun laws, as the model of resistance to the gun lobby.
His release of what his administration calls a GUNstat Report came a day after naming Bill Castner, a lawyer and former Democratic strategist, his senior adviser on gun violence.
Castner will command the administration’s efforts to reduce gun violence and strengthen policy, as well as work with the regional coalition Murphy helped to create to track gun crime.
But Castner may find himself working to persuade lawmakers beyond New Jersey to strengthen their gun laws. The report, compiled by the State Police, said that in the first quarter of the year, 77 percent of gun crimes used weapons originally purchased out of state. The State Police define a “crime gun” as one used or recovered at the scene of a crime or found or discarded.
Where the guns come from
The report was the first batch of data released by the administration since Murphy ordered the public release of gun-crime information last month. The State Police will release monthly and quarterly data showing where guns originate and other information in an effort to raise awareness of what the administration called an epidemic of gun violence.
The most crime guns originated in Pennsylvania, with 83, according to the report. And most of the others – 230 – came from the so-called iron pipeline of states off the Interstate 95 corridor with lighter gun laws than New Jersey.
Murphy said a good portion of Castner’s work will be coordinating with other states that have similarly strong gun laws but that he is “absolutely” open to using Castner elsewhere.
“Would we be willing to enter into other states that don’t see it the same way? I think the answer has to be yes, because our people’s lives are at risk,” Murphy said.
Of the 93 shootings in the first quarter, 17 were fatal, according to the report.
Parkland shooting activist
Murphy was joined at the news conference by Castner as well as acting State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter was killed in the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Teaneck.
Guttenberg said New Jersey is one of his many stops on a national tour since the shooting in Parkland, Florida, to pass “common sense gun reforms” and “destroy the gun lobby.”
Guttenberg said he supports a package of gun-related bills pending in the Legislature and that he’s “tired of hearing that delusional lie” that people like Murphy want to take firearms from law-abiding citizens.
“What we are trying to make sure is someone shouldn’t even have the ability to get a gun or high-capacity magazines with the intent of destruction will have the ability to take away all of your rights by shooting you and terminating them, as happened to my daughter,” Guttenberg said.
On Monday, Murphy announced his hiring of Castner in a ceremony featuring Gabrielle Giffords, the former congresswoman who was shot in 2011 and now leads a gun control advocacy group with her husband, Mark Kelly.
The gun data can be found online at http://www.njsp.org/njgunstat/.