NJ Gun Violence Taskforce More Smoke And Mirrors?

AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

A recent announcement from New Jersey Acting Attorney General Bruck is leaving more questions than answers. Bruck recently issued his first directive, and brace yourself Mr. and Mrs. America, it’s about guns. Imagine that, coming from the Garden State where Governor Phil Murphy has nothing but contempt for law abiding gun owners and anything freedom oriented, that Bruck would make his freshmen directive involve so-called “gun violence.” From the release:

Acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck and Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Rachael A. Honig today announced the creation of a statewide task force to enhance gun violence investigations and prosecutions. To implement the task force, Acting Attorney General Bruck issued the first Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive of his tenure – AG Directive 2021-10 – creating a statewide gun violence intelligence sharing network in all of New Jersey’s 21 counties.

The initiative is a joint effort between the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, the state’s 21 County Prosecutors, New Jersey State Police, and federal, state, and local law enforcement.

AG Directive 2021-10 establishes a statewide “Gun Violence Reduction Task Force” to lead reactive and proactive investigations and prosecute violent crimes that impact the lives and safety of residents, as well as a statewide intelligence network that will coordinate with the task force to implement mechanisms for immediate information sharing across agencies.

“Since becoming Acting Attorney General two months ago, I have met with dozens of law enforcement leaders across New Jersey who consistently stressed the need for greater coordination with county, state, and federal prosecutors to reduce gun violence,” said Acting Attorney General Bruck. “We all recognize that criminal prosecution alone will not end gun violence in New Jersey, but when prosecution is necessary, we must do so as effectively and efficiently as possible. The task force we are launching today demonstrates our commitment to working across all levels of government to keep the residents of New Jersey safe.”

Taking a step back, we have to admit that there is some credence to Bruck’s statement in that prosecution alone won’t end so-called “gun violence”. By his own admission, when “necessary” it must be “effectively and efficiently as possible”.  Prosecution and not plea bargaining down the charges of our violent offenders in New Jersey will certainly help. But what is the initiative really about? The press release continues:

“Our experience has shown that close cooperation among federal, state, and local law enforcement partners is the most effective way to combat violent crime,” said Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Rachael Honig.  “The U.S. Attorney’s Office is proud to participate in extending the Violent Crime Initiative model that it pioneered in New Jersey cities like Newark, Jersey City, and Camden to other municipalities statewide. We are grateful to Acting Attorney General Bruck and the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office for their shared commitment to protecting the safety of all New Jersey residents and the communities in which they live.”

The GVR Task Force model is based on the premise that a majority of gun violence incidents can be traced to a small group of individuals concentrated in specific areas – but that investigations into gun violence can span the entire state. As AG Directive 2021-10 notes, “A firearm trafficked into New Jersey through Salem County might wind up as the murder weapon in a Paterson homicide; a vehicle stolen in Ocean County might be used as the getaway car in a Trenton shooting. By improving information-sharing across agencies, we improve our ability to solve crimes and hold wrongdoers accountable throughout the Garden State.”

Things are starting to come a little into focus. What’s confusing here is all this talk about “sharing” information. One would like to think that should someone be already in “the system”, that if there were a criminal history, it’d all be there in an individual’s file. So what’s with all this “sharing”? As a law abiding gun owner in New Jersey that has jumped through several hoops several times in order to purchase a firearm, I can tell you from experience they do have criminal records on us all, and at least in the case of people trying to purchase firearms, they know who has a criminal history or not. Perhaps the prosecutors in these instances should run a New Jersey NICS on any alleged offenders? No, I don’ think that’s what this is all about.

What is notable that is absent in the press release however is in the actual AG’s directive is the following, which might be the crux to this plan:

Since becoming Acting Attorney General two months ago, I have met with dozens of law enforcement leaders across New Jersey to discuss strategies for reducing gun violence. Without exception, the observations of every police chief and County Prosecutor included four basic facts:

(1) a majority of gun violence incidents can be traced to a small group of individuals; (2) these incidents are concentrated in specific places, sometimes as small as a few city blocks; (3) the
violence is fueled by a steady supply of illegal firearms, obtained mostly out of state; and (4) a growing number of incidents involve juveniles with no significant criminal record.

But it is a fifth observation that has most stuck with me. Over and over again, I heard that while law enforcement officers often know who is most responsible for the violence in their communities, this information does not always make its way to the prosecutors best positioned to hold these violent individuals accountable. Sometimes, the information gap exists between a local police department and their County Prosecutor’s Office, which by default serves as the lead prosecuting agency for most violent crimes. But just as often, there is  insufficient information sharing between county, state, and federal prosecutors, who have overlapping jurisdiction in firearms cases and must work together to identify which entity can most effectively prosecute their shared targets. The consequences of these information gaps can be deadly: the longer that a criminal remains on the streets after committing an act of violence, the greater the likelihood that the person will act again.

It’s been a well known fact for a long time that our law enforcement officers know who the offenders are, where they live, where they practice their trade, and what they’re up to. Now this conversation about the right prosecutor getting the right information looks like a case of passing the buck. Let’s face it, prosecutors that convict some of the most violent criminals end up as targets. What benefit is there to have a violent criminal thrown in jail if there is a threat to the prosecutor’s life or the lives of their family members? Is that fiction? You deicide. From the looks of it, this is just a way to pass the responsibility to someone that may actually push to convict or not plea down the charges.

The whole matter of so-called “gun violence” needs to be tossed to the wind. Bruck and Murphy, if they actually cared about the public safety and welfare of those in the Garden State, they’d tackle violence. Period. Yes, just violence. Why play favorites? Especially given the following in the press release:

In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy and Acting AG Bruck are leading a comprehensive, statewide effort to reduce gun deaths, which pairs the latest evidence-based policing strategies with innovative, community-based prevention programs. The three-pronged approach to tackling this public health crisis includes addressing the root causes of violence; keeping guns away from those most likely to harm others; and taking swift action against those who break the law.

Well, good to know that Governor Phil Murphy’s and Bruck’s efforts do not list more “gun control” laws as part of their three pronged approach. No, that’s not listed. Two of their points don’t involve firearms at all. So any further push for the freedom-limiting laws that Murphy is so fond of clearly is just out of spite and contempt for a population of people he despises. The law abiding, tax paying, gun owning, peasants, whom are no benefit to Murphy and his ilk. They clearly have the keys: Address root causes of violence, keep guns out of the hands of criminals, and prosecute! Not limit the freedoms of the law abiding further.

It’s going to be interesting to see if this program will have any measurable effect on violence in New Jersey. In the meantime, while they’re looking at addressing the root causes of violence, perhaps the powers that be should focus on programs such as Operation Ceasefire. Operation Ceasefire was a community policing initiative in Boston in the 90’s and the city saw a drastic drop in crime in youth when the program was in effect. Or how about efforts similar to the the ones that recently showed a reduction in shooting victims in Camden? What is clear though is if our most violent offenders are not prosecuted there is no incentive to be law abiding. Maybe fruit will come from this and we’ll have prosecutors that actually have the stones to do the right thing. Let’s circle back on this one.