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 email@example.com 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.