N.J. could sue gun companies, close legal loophole under Murphy proposals

Gov. Murphy announcing his package of gun safety reforms. (Gov. Murphy)

Gov. Murphy announcing his package of gun safety reforms. (Gov. Murphy)

Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday announced what he called “perhaps the most sweeping gun violence prevention package in the history of our nation,” including funding increases, legislation, and other proposals aimed at clamping down on illegal guns and bolstering community safety measures.

The first-term Democrat said New Jersey’s already tough gun laws needed to be even stricter to combat gun crime, which he added disproportionately impacts communities of color.

“We will not simply sit back when we know there is more to do,” Murphy said. “So long as one block or one street faces the danger of gun violence, we all face that danger.”

New Jersey has the third-lowest rate of gun deaths in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The state recorded 1,254 shootings in 2019 resulting in 202 deaths, data from the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive shows. The number of shootings in 2020 dropped to 1,121, but the number of gun deaths jumped to 255, a more than 26% increase.

So far this year, 63 people have been killed in shootings in New Jersey, according to the website.

Thursday’s press conference also came just days after a 2-year-old was struck in the head by gunfire in Newark. Authorities said she was the unintended victim of a targeted shooting.

“Growing up in Newark, I tell young people, I could go to any section of this city by myself or with my friends,” said Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver. “Our young people can’t do that today.”

During the press conference, Murphy announced his support for eight bills, most of which are currently pending in the New Jersey legislature. Among them are measures to allow the state to sue gun companies over the interstate flow of illegal guns, close a loophole that doesn’t force people who move to New Jersey with firearms to apply for a gun permit, require the completion of a safety course to obtain a gun permit, and ban the sale of .50 caliber rifles.

Murphy also proposed allocating an additional $10 million to violence intervention programs and more tightly regulating school shooting drills, including a ban on simulated gunshots. That spending would need to be approved by the state legislature during the current budget negotiations.

Newark resident Sharon Redding, an anti-violence advocate who lost two nephews to gun violence and whose son was severely wounded by gunfire, said Murphy’s proposal was just what city residents needed.

“Now we have help. Amen,” Redding said. “Not only do we have a seat at the table, but we have a voice in the discussion.”

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