Over the past decade, nearly 5,000 New Jersey residents have been killed by guns. This is more than a tragedy. It’s also a public health crisis.
In New Jersey, the Attorney General’s Office is leading a comprehensive, statewide effort to reduce gun deaths—one that pairs the latest evidence-based policing strategies with innovative, community-based prevention programs. The approach is simple: Treat the root causes of violence. Keep guns away from those most likely to harm others. And take swift action against those who break the law. By working collaboratively and creatively, the Attorney General’s Office is building a national model for tackling this crisis.
- Targeting the most violent criminals and the weapons they use. Studies show that most gun violence can be traced back to a relatively small number of repeat offenders. The Attorney General’s Office has partnered with federal, state, and local law enforcement to identify gang leaders, weapons traffickers, and other high-risk targets, and hold them accountable when they violate the law. These efforts have resulted in landmark prosecutions against some of the state’s most dangerous criminal organizations, especially in the cities of Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, Trenton, Camden, and Atlantic City.
- Keeping unregistered, untraceable guns out of New Jersey. One of the most effective ways to keep guns away from felons, terrorists, and domestic abusers is by requiring a universal background check before a potential buyer can purchase a firearm, and New Jersey has among the country’s strongest programs for doing so. Recently, however, criminals have tried to evade background checks by obtaining unregistered guns on the internet, either by downloading computer codes for 3D printable codes or purchasing partially complete “ghost guns” and assembling the weapons themselves. These weapons pose a particular threat to law enforcement officers, and the Attorney General’s Office has pioneered some of the nation’s first enforcement actions against these online traffickers, imposing strict civil and criminal penalties on those who bring unregistered and untraceable weapons into the Garden State.
- Sharing intelligence on illegal firearms used in crimes. When law enforcement officers seize a firearm that was used in a crime, they want to know as much about the weapon as possible: who bought it, when was it bought, and were any other guns purchased at the same time? Under the supervision of the Attorney General’s Office, the New Jersey State Police has built the country’s most comprehensive statewide database on “crime guns,” creating an invaluable tool for criminal investigators seeking to trace illegal firearms to their source (which, more than 80 percent of the time, is located outside the state). To help educate the public, State Police now publishes monthly data online through a program known as “GunSTAT,” which helps draw attention to the problem of interstate gun trafficking, as well as the states and manufacturers responsible.
- Standing up for commonsense firearm safety laws. The Attorney General’s Office has worked with Governor Murphy and the State Legislature to pass a series of commonsense gun safety laws that would protect residents and law enforcement officers. Among other things, the new laws ban armor-piercing bullets and large-capacity magazines, require background checks for private gun sales, and allow judges to issue “extreme risk protection orders,” empowering family members and law enforcement officers to temporarily remove a person’s access to firearms in moments of crisis. The Attorney General’s Office has not only ensured swift implementation of New Jersey’s firearm safety laws, but also vigorously defended them from legal challenge.
- Interrupting the cycles of violence. The Attorney General’s Office has partnered with stakeholders across the state to stop gun violence before it starts. One of the most promising initiatives involving “hospital-based violence interruption programs” (HVIP), which work with local hospitals and community-based organizations to assist victims of gun violence in high-crime areas. In 2019, the Attorney General’s Office made $20 million in grant fund available to expand HVIP to hospitals across the state.