NEWARK, NJ – Flanked by the state's top law enforcement officials, Governor Phil Murphy on Thursday announced a sweeping series of reforms aimed at reducing the epidemic of gun violence. The Governor said these wide-ranging proposals would build upon previous steps taken in recent years to reduce gun violence and will further solidify New Jersey’s standing as a national leader in gun safety.
“Half of New Jersey’s gun homicides occur in only five cities, and the number of gun crimes in these cities has skyrocketed over the last year,” said Murphy. “We cannot sit back when we know there is more to do to address the danger of gun violence in our communities. By taking the steps we are announcing today, we will further commit to making every block and every street in our state safer.”
In recent years, New Jersey has established a “red flag” law for gun violence protective orders, criminalized firearms trafficking, strengthened background checks, reduced the maximum capacity of ammunition magazines and banned “ghost guns.”
This legislative package would go further in establishing gun violence prevention and control measures while providing funding for community programs.
“Everyday gun violence is a constant burden and threat to the public health and well-being of our communities,” said Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver, who called the gun safety package “the groundwork for interventions and programs that are designed to save lives and are backed by the necessary funding to help them succeed.”
Core components of Murphy’s plan would:
- Require firearm safety training by modernizing firearm ID cards, as well as require the completion of a firearm safety course in order to receive a permit to purchase a gun or receive a firearm ID card. Connecticut, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Rhode Island, Maryland and the District of Columbia already require individuals to undergo safety training prior to being able to purchase.
- Mandate safe storage of firearms by requiring firearm owners to store the firearm in a securely locked box or container; in a location where a reasonable person would believe to be secure; or to secure the firearm with a trigger lock.
- Raise the minimum age to 21 years old from 18 years old to be eligible to receive a firearms purchaser identification card used to purchase shotguns and rifles. Individuals over age 18 will still be allowed to possess a long gun for purposes of hunting, military drills, competition, target practice, training or under the supervision of a parent or guardian.
- Promote microstamping technology to provide law enforcement with the tools to quickly link firearm cartridge casings found at the scene of a crime to a specific firearm, without having to recover the firearm itself. The technology essentially creates a “license plate” on cartridge casings to identify the gun that was used to shoot the ammunition.
- Establish electronic ammunition sales recordkeeping by requiring manufacturers or dealers of handgun ammunition to keep a detailed electronic record of ammunition sales, and report ammunition sales to the State Police.
- Ban .50 Caliber Firearms such as military-style .50 caliber rifles by changing the definition of "destructive device" under New Jersey law so that it includes weapons of .50 caliber or greater.
- Close the loophole for importing out-of-state firearms by requiring firearm owners who move to New Jersey to obtain a firearm purchaser identification card (FPIC) and register their firearms within 30 days of residing in this State.
- Hold the gun industry accountable by amending state law to prohibit the gun industry from endangering the safety or health of the public through its sale, manufacturing, importing or marketing of guns.
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said these measures would “give us new tools and resources to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals, to combat illegal firearms trafficking, and to expand our violence intervention program.”
“These tools are essential to ensuring that New Jersey continues to do all that it can do to combat the continuing plague of gun violence. As New Jersey’s chief law enforcement officer, my message to gun traffickers, distributors, and even manufacturers has been clear from day one: we will hold you accountable when you violate our laws,” added Grewal.
Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, said that “law enforcement is always seeking ways to prevent gun violence before it happens, and the best way to accomplish this goal is through community-driven strategies where law enforcement work hand-in-hand with local government, faith-based leaders, and members of the community to create meaningful intervention programs.”
“Oftentimes, the greatest obstacle for implementing these strategies is lack of funding and support, which is why today’s announcement is welcome news for a New Jersey law enforcement community that is eager to see its outreach programs realized,” Callahan added.
The Murphy package includes two funding proposals. The first would allocate an additional $10 million in funding for programs that offer evidence-based, community-driven strategies like group violence intervention, relationship-based street outreach, and hospital-based violence intervention programs.
The second gives $2 million to the Gun Violence Research Center at Rutgers University to research gun violence as a public health epidemic and collect much-needed data in this area. The Center already is tasked with identifying evidenced-based solutions to the gun violence crisis.
Another measure in the package also regulates school shooting drills that are currently required to conduct active shooter exercises. Drill guidelines are considered vague by some.
Murphy proposes authorizing the Department of Education to establish trauma-informed and age-appropriate standards for lockdown drills. This would include encouraging preparation over simulation; barring the use of simulated gunshots; advanced notice to parents about planned drills, durational limits, training and prohibiting rewarding children for fighting off potential gunmen during a drill.
"We are proud to work with the Governor and New Jersey schools to protect children from gun violence, including bringing our life-saving Know the Signs programs statewide. As schools implement their emergency preparedness plans, including active shooter drills, it is critical that all of these initiatives are evidence-based, account for diverse needs, and do not harm or traumatize students,” said Mark Barden, co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise, and father of Daniel, who was killed in the elementary school tragedy. “That’s why we commend the state for taking action to require any active shooter drill policies to prioritize a safe and supportive school environments and the mental wellbeing of all students.”
Murphy also called for the “States for Gun Safety” Summit to be reconvened. The multi-state summit – with leaders from New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico – was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Murphy is hoping to have the summit meet in the summer of 2021 for states to share data, including the exchange of information about illegal trafficking and about those disqualified from owning firearms.
Finally, Murphy announced that he will be nominating members to the Personalized Handgun Authorization Commission—sometimes referred to as the Smart Gun Commission. It aims to bring together industry experts, business representatives and advocates for discussion of gun violence in New Jersey.
The reform package was praised by national gun violence advocacy groups, who said they would make the state a leader in gun violence prevention.
“New Jersey is a national leader in gun violence prevention, with laws that help to stop gun violence in all of its forms, said Brady United Against Gun Violence President Kris Brown. “The package that Gov. Murphy announced today will make New Jersey’s gun violence prevention laws, which are already among the strongest in the nation, more robust and effective by addressing gun violence as a public health crisis.”
“From increasing funding for violence intervention to requiring cutting-edge technology such as microstamping, these proposals will help keep communities safe and assist law enforcement to solve gun-related crimes,” added Brown.
“We applaud Governor Murphy for championing these comprehensive and ambitious actions to prevent gun violence and confirm New Jersey’s place as a national leader on gun safety,” said Nick Suplina, managing director of law and policy at Everytown for Gun Safety. “These policies will help address the crisis of gun violence and the problems New Jerseyans face every day, from city gun violence to firearm suicide.”
Nico Bocour, government affairs director at Giffords, a national gun violence advocacy organization, said the work is not over.
“The legislation introduced today is the most comprehensive package championed this year and will make the Garden State’s gun laws even stronger. That’s good news for families and communities concerned about the ongoing gun violence crisis,” said Bocour.