In order to legally own a firearm in the Garden State, you have to undergo multiple background checks and receive permission from your local police, who, after doing a thorough investigation into your “suitability” to own a gun, may issue you a Firearms ID card which allows you to possess a rifle or shotgun, or a pistol purchase permit that you can show at a local gun store before going through yet another background check (this time a federal check through the NICS system) before purchasing a handgun.
In addition to those draconian steps, gun owners in the state are also forbidden from possessing “assault weapons” or ammunition magazines that can hold more than ten rounds, and aren’t allowed to bring their guns anywhere except to and from a range or gun shop, unless you possess one of the handful of concealed carry permits that are currently active across the state.
Without a doubt, New Jersey has multiple layers of gun control that are all supposed to lead to gun-free communities and less violent crime. The only problem is that those laws aren’t working, at least when it comes to stopping criminals.
Last year, 218 people in New Jersey died in shootings, an increase of 45% from 2019, according to State Police tracking. Another 1,052 people were wounded, up 25%.
The rise in shootings “has been an unfortunate consequence of the pandemic and it has played out throughout America,” said Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora, whose city had a record 40 homicides, a 167% increase from 2019.
Gusciora said unemployment and the closure of schools have fueled “neighborhood versus neighborhood” violence at a time in which community institutions such as churches are still largely remote, hampering their ability to reach people.
“It’s just frustration all around,” Gusciora said.
If gun control was the answer to reducing violent crime, Trenton wouldn’t have seen a record number of homicides last year. Mayor Gusciora would instead be talking about how, despite a year of tumult and upheaval, the “commonsense gun safety regulations” in place in New Jersey continued to keep people safe. But since Gusciora is a true-blue believer in more gun control, he can’t acknowledge its failures. Instead, he has to ramble on about “neighborhood versus neighborhood” violence, as if the issue was out of control homeowners associations engaging in shootouts with each other instead of the gang and drug-fueled violence that we’re seeing in Trenton, Newart, Paterson, and other New Jersey cities.
In New Jersey, the first three months of 2021 saw 37 people killed and 223 wounded in shootings, according to State Police stats. That’s the highest total for that quarter in four years, though 2018 had more deaths (44).
Liza Chowdhury and her team at the Paterson Healing Collective have seen the recent heartbreak firsthand. The recently launched initiative helps victims of shootings and other violence as they struggle to regain their lives; already the nonprofit has served 52 gunshot victims from October to March, according to Chowdhury, its director.
“It is happening a lot, unfortunately,” said Tamika Ruffin, a case manager at the collective. “And I think it is because of course of COVID and the lack of resources.”
Among the Paterson victims is Miaisha Campbell, who survived three bullet wounds to her back during a street shooting last year. At at online violence prevention roundtable on Thursday, Campbell spoke of her struggles to manage her anxiety, land a job and get back on her feet.
The shooting left her in a “super dark place,” Campbell said. “To the point (that) I didn’t trust my kids being outside, I didn’t trust nothing or no one.”
Miasha Campell isn’t the only one suffering from trust issues. Her state government doesn’t trust her or other responsible citizens to protect themselves with a firearm, even if they’ve been the victim of a shooting themselves. Instead, politicians like Gov. Phil Murphy and Sen. Corey Booker continue to insist that we can ban our way to safety, even as the numbers in New Jersey continue to head in the wrong direction; more gun control, more crime, more victims, and less freedom every day.