By: Michael Mandarino, Follow South Jersey Managing Editor
TRENTON, N.J. — On Thursday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy introduced a massive group of changes to gun law in the state — highlighted by community members being required to pass a gun safety course in order to buy a gun in New Jersey and increasing the minimum age required to buy any kind of gun from 18 to 21 years of age.
The legislative package introduced by Gov. Murphy also includes a mandate of safe storage for firearms, and it would also establish electronic record-keeping for ammunition sales. It has also proposed a ban on .50 caliber firearms, which would be enacted by revising New Jersey’s definition of “destructive device” to include these powerful weapons, and the package would also close a loophole in state law that allows firearm owners from outside of New Jersey to keep their weapons without getting a new gun license in the state.
At this time, you have to be 21 years old to buy a handgun in New Jersey, but community members aged 18 and older can receive a firearms purchaser ID card, which allows residents to purchase longer guns like shotguns and rifles. One bill in this package would increase the minimum age for a firearms purchaser ID card to 21, but those aged 18-20 would be allowed to have a longer weapon for hunting, military drills, competition, target practice, and training with parental supervision.
“Half of New Jersey’s gun homicides occur in only five cities, and the number of gun crimes in these cities has skyrocketed over the last year,” Gov. Murphy said in a press release. “We cannot sit back when we know there is more to do to address the danger of gun violence in our communities. By taking the steps we are announcing today, we will further commit to making every block and every street in our state safer.”
If signed into law, this legislative package would also provide $10 million in funding for gun safety-related initiatives in New Jersey, and the state would also dedicate $2,000,000 to Rutgers University’s Gun Violence Research Center.
Gun violence has once again become a hot-button issue in the United States following a string of mass shootings in the past few weeks and months. Ten people were killed during a shooting at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado on March 22, eight were killed a string of businesses in Atlanta on March 16, and a former NFL player killed six people — including his wife, two granchildren, and himself — at their home in Rock Hill, South Carolina on April 7. Last night, eight people were killed by a gunman at a FedEx warehouse in Indianapolis. There have also been several other smaller shootings, including one at a school in Knoxville, Tennessee in which the 17-year-old gunman was the only casualty and one in Orange, California that took four lives on March 31.
Although it hasn’t had a high-profile shooting garnering the national attention of those in Boulder, Atlanta, or Indianapolis, New Jersey is certainly no stranger to gun violence. The state’s police force reported a total of 170 shooting victims in the state in January and February of this year, and 25 people lost their lives to gun violence in the first two months of this year.
According to The Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, New Jersey had the third-lowest gun death rate in the country in 2019. However, that figure climbed by 23% throughout 2020 with 287 gun homicides through November 30 of last year, according to NJ.com.
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