NJ to start naming gun dealers whose items trafficked into state
Four cities in New Jersey – Newark, Jersey City, Paterson and Trenton – are teaming up this summer with the Brady Campaign to develop localized strategies to deal with gun violence.
One of their common goals: Identify the out-of-state gun dealers whose products flood the cities’ streets, a strategy Brady is already pursuing in Milwaukee, Oakland and Los Angeles.
It’s an extension of a "name and shame" strategy Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration began a year ago – first naming the states where guns illegally trafficking into New Jersey were originally sold, then expanding to naming the gun manufacturers.
“And so whether it’s through legal action or best practices or training programs, getting that number to come down and shift meaningfully is a big, important step,” said Murphy, who said 5% of gun dealers are responsible for about 90% of the crime guns.
Bill Castner, Murphy’s senior advisor on firearms, to the governor, said he has been impressed by Brady’s results in addressing “bad-apple dealers.”
“Getting some of these dealers to adopt best practices and a code of conduct, as Gov. Murphy mentioned, to do background checks – something as simple as background checks – of its employees,” Castner said. “Training gun dealers to identify straw purchasers. Having dealers purchase insurance against the theft of firearms. Sometimes restricting the sale of certain types of firearms. Sometimes restricting the sale of firearms to those under age 21.
“These are all really important potential takeaways of trying to identify who the bad-apple dealers are, who are the ones that are ultimately selling the guns that are ending up in New Jersey communities and taking aggressive actions to enforce that,” he said.
Joshua Scharff, a Brady Campaign attorney, said dealers whose guns wind up being trafficked need to adopt safer business practices or be shut down.
“The overwhelming majority of gun dealers are law-abiding business people who adopt responsible practices,” Scharff said. “There is a small minority of gun dealers that supply the overwhelming majority of the guns that are traced to crime.”
Kyleanne Hunter, Brady’s vice president for programs, said every city’s illegal gun problem has a unique supply chain and that the goal is finding ways to disrupt it. She said New Jersey provides a good chance to “actually dig in to these community-based solutions” because there is a lot of local autonomy.
“For almost every single one of these guns that is recovered in a crime, there is a point where it leaves the legal market, where it was legally purchased, legally sold at some point, and enters the illegal market,” Hunter said.
Murphy hosted a roundtable discussion on gun violence Tuesday at his Trenton office. It was scheduled before a violent weekend in the capital city in which 15 were shot, one fatally. Nine were shot early Saturday morning in one drive-by shooting.
Mayors and lawmakers representing New Jersey’s cities say the gun problems in urban areas result from too much poverty and too little hope.
State Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Essex, said “no child is ever born saying I want to be a gangbanger when I grow up” but that Trenton kids are let down by a poor educational system and so few resources that the city had to close four library branches.
“So it’s easier for a kid to pick up a gun than to pick up a book,” Turner said.