Anti-violence advocates at New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy's gun reform unveiling (303751)
Credit: Photo courtesy of the Office of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy

Homicides in New Jersey went up 23% in 2020. A series of gun reforms proposed by Gov. Phil Murphy aims to cut down on the violence by putting millions in funding toward community programs and even banning certain firearms.

Currently, the state is dealing with a string of shootings over the last several weeks. In Newark, a one-year-old was fatally shot last weekend. The suspect is just 16 years old. Last month, a 63-year-old woman celebrating her birthday was shot and killed near her home. In Jersey City, two people were injured during a shooting last Sunday. Two sisters were found shot to death earlier this month at a restaurant in Hillside.

Murphy says half of New Jersey’s gun homicides occur in five cities and the number of gun crimes in those cities has skyrocketed over the last year. He unveiled a series of gun reforms last Friday.

“We cannot sit back when we know there is more to do to address the danger of gun violence in our communities,” Murphy said. “By taking the steps we are announcing today, we will further commit to making every block and every street in our state safer.”

Among the reforms, Murphy is proposing $10 million for community-based violence intervention, raising the minimum age to purchase long guns to 21, banning .50 caliber firearms and establishing electronic ammunition sales recordkeeping.

“Everyday gun violence is a constant burden and threat to the public health and well-being of our communities. To solve this problem, we need actions that are informed by research and data,” said Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver. “The Gun Safety Package that Governor Murphy has set forth today lays the groundwork for interventions and programs that are designed to save lives and are backed by the necessary funding to help them succeed.”

Almost 80% of guns used in crimes in New Jersey are originally purchased out-of-state. Guns are sometimes sold in the illegal market through gun shows, flea markets, straw purchasers, and theft.

“We have long stated that we cannot arrest our way out of gun violence, crime, and the tragedy it creates,” said Newark Mayor Ras Baraka. “In Newark, we have realized that this crisis is a public health issue, and continue to address it that way, reducing shootings through prevention. Our state and federal partners and leaders are realizing the same thing, and we are seeing this manifested today by Governor Murphy’s comprehensive gun safety package.”

Newark Community Street Team Director Aqeela Sherrills said funding for violence prevention programs is crucial.

“Reimagining public safety is not just a tagline in Newark, residents trained as public safety professionals working in tandem with law enforcement have produced our lowest crime rate in 60 years,” Sherrills said. “Public safety is a shared strategy and can’t be done without the public. Safety is a shared strategy created in communities by the people who live there.”