Governor Murphy Enacts Landmark Law Holding Gun Traffickers Accountable for Deaths and Injuries

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy solidified his administration’s unwavering commitment to combating gun violence by signing a new initiative into law. The legislation, known as S3150 or the “Real Accountability for Consequences of Unlawful Trafficking of Firearms Act,” establishes strict liability criminal penalties for gun traffickers whose illegally trafficked firearms are used in crimes resulting in serious bodily injury or death. This groundbreaking law makes New Jersey the first state in the nation to take such decisive action against illegal gun traffickers.

Under the provisions of the law, a trafficked firearm utilized in a crime resulting in death may be charged as a first-degree offense. Furthermore, individuals who commit firearm trafficking violations leading to serious bodily injury may face charges as second-degree offenses. The legislation aims to hold out-of-state traffickers accountable for the harm caused by their illegal conduct in New Jersey, as it is estimated that around 80% of guns used in crimes within the state are supplied from outside its borders. The law draws inspiration from long-standing legislation already in place, which imposes strict criminal liability on drug dealers for overdose deaths caused by their illicit products.

Governor Murphy expressed his concern for the safety of New Jersey residents, stating, “Far too many New Jerseyans live with the daily fear that people in their communities who cannot legally possess guns can illegally obtain firearms and cause great harm.” He emphasized the significance of the new law in holding illegal gun traffickers responsible for the harm caused by the weapons they supply. Governor Murphy praised the law as another historic step towards protecting children and families from the devastating impact of gun violence.

This latest initiative builds upon Governor Murphy’s extensive record of commonsense gun reforms, solidifying New Jersey as a national leader in gun safety. Since taking office in 2018, the Murphy Administration has taken over a dozen steps to address gun violence within the state. In July 2022, Governor Murphy signed seven comprehensive gun safety bills, marking the third significant gun safety package enacted during his tenure. Collaboration with the Office of the Attorney General has resulted in additional actions being taken beyond the passing of legislation to address violence.

Recently, it was announced that a competitive grant process would make $15 million available to support Community-Based Violence Intervention (CBVI) Programs throughout the state. This brings the total investment in CBVI programs to $40 million in state and federal funds since 2021. These programs employ a public health approach to interrupt cycles of violence, specifically targeting gun violence. Strategies implemented under CBVI initiatives include mentoring programs, street outreach, trauma support services, de-escalation efforts among high-risk individuals, targeted afterschool programs, and job training.

The first prime sponsors of the newly signed bill, which passed unanimously through both houses, were Senator Troy Singleton and Assemblywoman Linda Carter. First Assistant Attorney General Lyndsay V. Ruotolo praised the strong anti-trafficking bill, highlighting the additional tools it provides for prosecutors and law enforcement to hold firearms traffickers accountable. Senator Singleton emphasized the need to deter and hold traffickers responsible for the risks they pose, particularly as approximately 80% of crime guns traced in New Jersey originate from out of state. Assemblywoman Carter echoed this sentiment, emphasizing that those responsible for illegal firearm trafficking should be held accountable for the consequences of their actions.

Local officials also expressed their support for the law, recognizing its importance in enhancing public safety. Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora called it a victory for citizens and public safety, applauding the law for its potential to secure communities. Trenton Police Department Director Steve Wilson praised the legislation for sending a clear message to those involved in the illegal distribution of firearms that they can be held accountable for the injuries and lives lost due to gun violence. Pastor John Taylor of Friendship Baptist Church stressed the significance of addressing the illegal distribution of guns and protecting the lives of New Jersey’s youth.

This new law signifies a groundbreaking moment in New Jersey’s fight against gun violence, as it takes bold steps to target illegal gun traffickers and prioritize the safety of its residents. By combining comprehensive gun safety reforms with community-based violence intervention programs, Governor Murphy and his administration are working towards breaking the cycle of violence once and for all.

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