“When we work together as regional partners to enact regional solutions, we’re far better off than when we go off on our own,” Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday. (Photo by Danielle Richards for New Jersey Monitor)
New Jersey and three of its neighbors will begin sharing data on guns involved in crime, four governors announced in a joint virtual appearance Thursday.
A memorandum of understanding signed by Gov. Phil Murphy and his counterparts in New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania will require law enforcement agencies in those states to share gun trace information from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
Such data charts the movement of a firearm from its creation and is used to spot gun traffickers and link criminal suspects to specific weapons.
“When we work together as regional partners to enact regional solutions, we’re far better off than when we go off on our own, and we clearly saw that throughout the pandemic,” Murphy said during the announcement. “A critical piece of this is sharing information so we can put smart policies to work.”
All four governors are Democrats. Murphy is seeking a second term next month.
New Jersey’s gun laws are among the strongest in the nation and include universal background checks, magazine capacity limits, and a red flag law that allows individuals and authorities to petition the courts for an emergency order to seize firearms from persons who may harm themselves or others.
But despite the state’s strong gun control measures, gun violence and deaths have spiked in New Jersey since the start of the pandemic. Homicides in New Jersey rose by 26% in 2020, with far sharper increases in some of the state’s cities, according to crime reports drafted by local law enforcement agencies and compiled by the New Jersey State Police.
Officials have said many of the weapons recovered in the Garden State originate elsewhere.
“None of us on the screen here are blind to the fact that our individual states’ gun laws are only as good as those in the rest of our neighborhood,” Murphy said.
Gun traces conducted by the ATF between July 1 and Sept. 30 found 533 of the 602 weapons found in New Jersey — for which a source state was identified — originated elsewhere, according to quarterly ATF data releases. New York was the source of nine weapons, and Connecticut, which also has stringent gun laws, was the source for just two. Ninety-one of those firearms came from Pennsylvania, which was the largest single source of out-of-state weaponry for that three-month period.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said his state saw a staggering 48% increase in gun homicides last year.
“I think this could be a very powerful, innovative way to approach this issue, and I’m very proud to be able to work with New York and New Jersey and Connecticut in doing this,” Wolf said.
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