TRENTON — New Jersey is allying with three other Northeast states to create a new States for Gun Safety coalition.

The idea was already in development for a year, first as a campaign promise of Gov. Phil Murphy, who said the progress was accelerated after last week’s school shooting in Florida.

“Getting engaged with other like-minded states and hopefully beyond, we can mitigate this awful scourge,” Murphy said.

Murphy said more than 80 percent of the guns used in crimes in New Jersey come from other states and that it makes sense to cooperate with neighbors to trace and intercept black-market guns, share databases to prevent some people from buying them and promote gun-violence research at public universities.

But the other states in the new States for Gun Safety coalition – Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island – ranked among the ten states with the strictest gun laws already. The out-of-state guns used in New Jersey crimes generally come from southern states where they’re easier to buy.

Murphy said New Jersey cooperates on gun issues with New York already but can do more.

The four states will share more information about potential gun buyers than is available through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says state databases include information about mental health, arrest warrants and orders of protection.

“All those databases that are not in the NICS federal system would be shared. And the federal system is a very limited system, right? That’s the essence of the problem,” Cuomo said.

Murphy said the states will pursue a regional gun violence research consortium, helping state universities organize studies the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been legally prohibited from doing since 1996.

“It has devolved to the states now for over 20 years, and our thought is perhaps if we can do it in a coordinated way, the more of us at it, hopefully the better the result,” Murphy said.

Murphy said he hopes the consortium can advance the development of smart gun technology that prohibits a gun from being fired by anyone other than the owner by verifying the shooter’s fingerprint.

The governors announced the coalition on a morning conference call before heading to Washington to gather for National Governors Association meetings, where Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo says she’ll be encouraging governors to join the multistate effort.

“I hope to be able to convince some other governors to join us because if we get together, we governors, we can send a powerful message to the whole country that it is possible to improve our gun laws and save lives,” Raimondo said. “And we can all look at our kids and when they ask us, ‘What are you doing about it?’ we can give them a good answer.”

“We can’t wait for the federal government to act. We have states with good intentions with good laws, let’s take it to the next level,” said Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy. “Let’s work across our borders. Let’s not just advocate for better laws in our state but better laws in our region. Let’s not just try to make our own borders as safe as possible. Let’s try to make our region as safe as possible.”

New Jersey: Decoded cuts through the cruft and gets to what matters in New Jersey news and politics. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at

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