NJ to ‘name and shame’ other states by releasing gun crime data
ASBURY PARK – Starting in May, the New Jersey State Police and attorney general will post monthly reports online summarizing the prior month’s gun crimes. And every three months, they’ll publish information showing where guns trafficked into New Jersey came from.
Gov. Phil Murphy says the information is already collected and used internally by law enforcement but that residents will be able to see the direct impact on gun violence.
“And as painful as that may be, we’re going to shine a light on the data, at long last,” Murphy said at a Friday event at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School.
Murphy said there were 485 gun deaths in New Jersey in 2016, a number that includes homicides, suicides and accidents, and that the goal should be to reduce it to zero. He said making the data more available to the public could help “call folks out” who don’t prevent gun trafficking.
“I’ll tell you right now, if it means naming and shaming other states, that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” Murphy said.
Murphy said there’s at least one state that declined to enter the new States for Gun Safety coalition started in February that includes six states and Puerto Rico.
“My gut tells me that if they’re on this list as a high source state, that that’s going to be a tough conversation between the chief executives,” Murphy said.
The monthly reports will be posted starting in May, with April’s data. They will include gun crimes by municipality, the types of guns used, the types of crimes committed with guns and the numbers of shooting victims.
The quarterly reports could begin in June, looking back to the start of the year. Those will include the state-by-state breakdown of the origin of guns used in crimes in New Jersey.
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said seven or eight states are the primary sources of guns illegally trafficked into New Jersey. More than 80 percent of gun crimes in New Jersey are committed with guns obtained out of state.
“We have this data. This is part of what we do. But you should have this data, as well. You have a right to know this,” Grewal said.
State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan said the more that people know about illegal gun trafficking – which he said are brought by straw purchasers one, two or three at a time, not in big truckloads – the better off the state and region will be.
“The criminals don’t mind that the Delaware River is in between us and Pennsylvania. They don’t care about the Hudson River. They’ll pay the toll to go over the George Washington Bridge,” Callahan said. “So this regional effort, we have to start looking at crime and terrorism regionally.”
Carole Stiller, president of the New Jersey Million Mom March chapters, said 90 percent of the guns used in crimes come from 5 percent of gun dealers. She said the Brady Campaign has tried for years to pressure them to change their practices and that the forthcoming data would help those efforts.
“When you have a gun dealer that all of a sudden his records for the ATF are showing that 200 and some guns are missing, those guns didn’t just walk out the door. They know what’s going on,” Stiller said. “So we’ve got to go after the gun dealers. So I think it’s going to be a big effect.”
Murphy said he’d be pleased if the availability of the gun-violence data spurred another round of activism by young people, as has happened around the country since the Feb. 14 shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
“If it was done safely and the superintendent of the local school district or the principal weren’t upset, I sure wouldn’t mind seeing some of the young activism showing up at the state capitol and standing on their front step and saying, ‘Enough already,’” Murphy said. “That wouldn’t bother me, again if it was done safely and moms and dads were OK with that.”
Eighth-grader Jaione Murray, of Asbury Park, knows two people killed in gun violence, a cousin and a family friend, and worries that could happen to her. She said some kids at her school see guns every day after school and at home but that she’d rather focus on things like playing softball with friends.
“I want to be able to live the normal life of a 14-year-old. But in our world today, the definition of normal seems to have changed,” Murray said. “So if being a normal 14-year-old means standing up against gun violence, count me in.”