NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. - Gov. Phil Murphy told a room of gun violence activists on Tuesday that the data culled in a new Rutgers research initiative will someday help shape public policies.
Murphy made the remarks on Douglass Campus at "Preventing Gun Violence in New Jersey: A Call to Action."
Much of the focus of the symposium and Murphy's opening keynote remarks turned toward the New Jersey Center on Gun Violence at Rutgers, which intends to produce data on gun violence and establish solutions for gun violence prevention.
"We must all come together to listen and learn and build meaningful connections and data-driven research and on-the-ground experiences," Murphy said. "With firm footholds in each region of our state, Newark, New Brunswick and Camden, North Central and South, we can assure not just a whole-of-Rutgers or a whole-of-government, but a truly whole-of-state approach that will educate and inform the solutions we will need to make sound policy decisions."
Murphy also announced that he would be convening with Rutgers and the mayors of New Jersey cities "that suffer from the highest levels of gun violence" prior to Memorial Day. He said the goal of the meeting would be to facilitate a partnership with the cities and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a nonprofit organization that advocates for gun control and is named after the press secretary who was permanently disabled when shot during the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan in 1981.
It is unclear if New Brunswick's James Cahill would be among the mayors invited.
Murphy invoked Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Orlando, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh and other sites of mass shootings in his call for preventing gun violence. He included Trenton, where early morning gang-related violence left 17 people shot and marring a 24-hour arts festival last year.
New Jersey, however, has taken steps to curb gun violence, Murphy said. He pointed to States for Gun Safety, a coalition he launched last year with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, and Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy. The group not only seeks to curb gun violence but also what Murphy said is the federal government's inaction on the subject.
Murphy also said his administration has taken steps to create more stringent background checks for gun buyers and has banned armor-piercing ammunition, among other things.
Going forward, Murphy said, the finding of the New Jersey Center on Gun Violence Research at Rutgers will be an invaluable tool against what he called "the scourge of gun violence."
"The fight against gun violence isn’t about politics and in many ways, it’s not even about guns," he said. "It’s about the search for common sense and far-reaching public policy solutions. It’s about treating the act of gun violence not as a political matter, but as one of the key health issues of our time. It is about how we support the victims of gun violence through physical and mental recovery. It’s about how we help communities in the aftermath of a tragic shooting or living with the regular sound of gunfire in their streets. It’s about how we work together with community groups and law enforcement to create trust and the relations that can focus on preventing problems before they occur, rather than after."
There are 100,000 firearms-related incidents annually, with almost a third of those resulting in a death, according to Brian Strom, Chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical Health Services. There are about 500 gun-related deaths in New Jersey each year, he said.