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N.J.’s new war on guns: How one state is taking the fight to the firearm industry


When it comes to protecting our communities from senseless gun violence, if Washington won’t lead, we will.

As elected officials in the age of mass shootings, it is incumbent on all of us to do everything we possibly can to keep our communities, and our children, safe. Since I took office in January of 2018, we’ve made New Jersey the state with some of the strongest gun safety laws in the country.

Thanks to teamwork from our administration, the state legislature and countless advocates throughout our state, New Jersey is once again leading the nation in the effort to keep guns off our streets, to stop the flow of illegal guns into our state and to keep guns out of the wrong hands, through comprehensive gun safety laws. And we are seeing the results of our work.

But we know we cannot rest on any laurels. We cannot stop.

It is in that spirit that, this week, I signed an executive order committing our administration to a series of additional steps to combat the crisis of gun violence. We’ll do so by using the state’s purchasing power to our advantage.

We have committed New Jersey to a whole-of-government approach to tackle gun violence, and now, under this new executive order, we will commit to bringing the gun manufacturing industry, and gun retailers, along with us.

We have an urgent responsibility to do this. After all, state, county and local taxpayers are also overwhelmingly the state’s largest gun buyers, with the most economic clout. New Jersey has spent approximately $70 million over the last several years directly on firearms and ammunition purchases for law enforcement.

We cannot let taxpayers unwittingly pad the pockets of anyone whose business practices may make the jobs of law enforcement even more dangerous or put our residents in harm’s way.

Under this order, New Jersey will review the practices and policies of both gun manufacturers and government-contracted gun retailers and request disclosure of their standards for preventing guns from being purchased by straw purchasers, firearm traffickers or other prohibited individuals, for protecting against the theft of guns and ammunition, and for ensuring their employees both comply with New Jersey law and cooperate with law enforcement at all levels to promote public safety.

If we find folks not living up to our standards, we reserve the right to stop doing business with them moving forward. And, where we find a retailer who is doing the right things, but doesn’t yet have the ability to compete for state contracts, we will gladly open the door to doing business with good actors who employ best practices, as many New Jersey dealers already do.

We are also going to ask banks in which the state invests taxpayer dollars to document their gun safety practices.

Through the billions of taxpayer dollars that state, county and local governments and school boards, along with any number of other authorities at every level of government, invest in financial institutions annually, together we can create a strong impetus for the banks we do business with to join us in keeping the public safe from the proliferation of guns.

And, through States for Gun Safety — which, I am proud to say, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf recently announced his intention to join — we will work with our fellow like-minded states to take similar steps, so we can make this a coordinated and nationwide effort to cut off financing to bad apple retailers and suppliers.

We will not waste any time in ensuring that the people we do business with, and who do business with New Jersey, share our concerns and share our state’s values. We may take pride in having among the nation’s strongest laws and lowest rates of gun-related deaths. But there is only one number we should aim for: zero.

We will not sit back, cross our fingers, and hope that Washington takes meaningful action. States must do whatever they can to confront this crisis.

Murphy is governor of New Jersey.