Will New Jersey Be a National Model For Gun Safety?

The recent shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and at a bar in Thousand Oaks, California have more in common than the senseless loss of life at the hands of a mad man.

Both shooters had an arsenal of weapons. Both obtained their guns legally. And neither fell into any category barred from gun ownership under federal law, including felons, convicted domestic abusers, dishonorably disch­arged veterans, and the mentally ill.

So tighter gun-control measures won’t work, right?

It is an argument frequently cited by gun rights advocates: Some mass shooters get their guns legally, therefore stronger gun laws are futile. But gun violence is a complicated puzzle. Fewer than 1 percent of homicide victims are killed in incidents where four or more people died. And even when you include mass shootings, the majority of gun deaths in the U.S. aren’t homicides. Two-thirds of the more than 33,000 gun deaths that take place in America each year are suicides.

Yet, according to multiple studies*, there is a clear correlation between strict gun legislation and lower gun violence rates. We are lucky to live in New Jersey, which has some of the strongest gun control legislation in the country and — not coincidently — the sixth-lowest number of gun deaths per capita and the lowest gun exports to other states.

Last spring, Governor Phil Murphy signed into law seven historic gun violence prevention bills that reduced magazine capacity, banned armor-piercing bullets and expanded background checks on private gun sales. In October, New Jersey passed a law that banned 3-D printable guns and “ghost guns” – those without serial numbers.

Now the administration wants to move quickly on what Murphy is calling his “gun safety package 2.0”. Murphy wants to tackle gun trafficking: States that do have strong gun laws are not immune from gun violence – they have to contend with a thriving underground market for firearms brought from states with few restrictions. In New Jersey, more than three-quarters of the firearms used in gun crimes are purchased in other states.

The gun safety package would make it easier to prosecute gun traffickers; as well as require every New Jersey gun retailer to carry smart guns, personalized handguns that only the owner can use; require photo ID to purchase ammunition; and help cities establish violence intervention programs.

If these laws pass, New Jersey will be a national model for gun safety. Let’s hope other states follow New Jersey’s lead in the quest to reduce gun violence deaths – whether they are suicides, homicides or mass shootings.

Look for updates from NCJW/Essex on ways to support New Jersey’s gun violence prevention laws in the coming months or contact Stephanie Abrahams, Director of Advocacy, at sabrahams@ncjwessex.org to see how you can help.

* Studies were published by the Giffords Law Center, JAMA Internal Medicine, the Center for Gun Policy and Research at Johns Hopkins, the academic journal Epidemiologic Reviews, the Rand Corporation, among others.

Election Day is November 6th!

And this is no ordinary midterm election. All 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate will be contested. Not only will the balance of power in both houses of Congress be decided, but many state legislatures and governorships are also up for grabs.

Yet many people will still sit out the midterm elections. According to the Pew Research Center, America has some of the lowest voter turnout in the developing world. For every 10 Americans, only six turn out to vote – even though recent elections in the U.S. have been decided by just hundreds of votes. [link]

That is why the swing voter in November will not be a Republican or a Democrat. It will be a non-voter who chooses to vote in 2018. At NCJW/Essex we have launched a Get Out the Vote campaign to combat the two biggest reasons people have for not voting.

I am not registered.

To register to vote, you must be a U.S. citizen, have resided at your present address for at least 30 days, and be at least 17 years of age. New this year: You can now register to vote at 17, with the understanding that you cannot actually vote until you turn 18. Know a high school senior or a recent graduate? Make sure he or she is registered! If you have recently changed your name or address, you must also re-register. Check to see if you are registered or get a registration form at www.elections.nj.gov. Voter Registrations must be postmarked by October 16, 2018.

I will be away — or won’t be able to get to the polls — on November 6.

The good news is that anyone can now Vote By Mail. You no longer need a reason. Registered voters who don’t want to, or can’t, go to the polls must apply for a Vote by Mail ballot. The application is available online at www.elections.nj.gov, at your County Clerk’s office or here at NCJW/Essex. Your application for a Vote By Mail Ballot must arrive in your County Clerk’s office by October 30, 2018, or you can apply in person before 3 p.m. on November 5, 2018.

Our grassroots campaign relies on our volunteers to help flip non-voters to voters. For a letter that you can email to friends and family with important voter information, please contact Stephanie Abrahams, sabrahams@ncjwessex.org or call (973) 488-0054.

Your vote is your voice. Make sure yours is heard!