At the Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School on Asbury Park’s West Side, metal detectors are part of every school kid’s day, a reality of the city you don’t see in the sunny travel guides. Yet Gianni Murray thrives there. An honor student full of energy and insight, the eighth grader opened the governor’s news conference on Friday with some powerful context.
“I love growing up in Asbury Park,” said Murray. “I have my whole life, but the truth is it’s not that easy. Gun violence has taken the lives of my cousin, a family friend, and I worry that one day, it can take mine, she said. “I am 14 years old. I want to play softball with my friends. I want to walk in my neighborhood safely. I want to be able to live the normal life of a 14-year-old, but in our world today, the definition of normal seems to have changed.”
Murray, along with the governor, attorney general, state police superintendent and the acting education commissioner were on hand to witness the governor signing an executive order that expands the dissemination of gun crime information from law enforcement to the public.
“Every month, the state police and the attorney general’s office will publish information to the public on the volume of gun crimes, the type of guns used, the number of shooting victims, the towns where these crimes occurred, the offenses charged,” announced Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, “and because the public has a right to know, on a quarterly basis, we’ll also publish information about where these guns are originating from, who are the source states for these guns.”
The idea is for the public and other interested parties to use the information to identify trends, or just become aware of the amount of guns that are proliferating, in a state where officials say 80 percent of confiscated crime guns come from out of state. Maybe, mused the governor, student activists might be able to use that data.
“If it was done safely, and if the superintendent of the local school district, or the principal weren’t upset, I sure wouldn’t mind seeing some of the young activism showing up at the state capitol and standing on their front step and saying enough already,” said Gov. Phil Murphy. “That wouldn’t bother me.”
Murphy was talking about other state capitals, where the gun laws are not as tough as they are in New Jersey. South Carolina was mentioned Friday, specifically, but Virginia and Pennsylvania have been mentioned in the past. While Friday’s event took place at a school, the focus wasn’t entirely on school shootings. While kids there do partake in active shooter drills, the larger concern is gun violence in the neighborhood.
“Just six weeks ago,” he reported, “a 10-year-old boy was killed in a shooting; this past weekend, five people were rushed to the hospital, the result of a drive-by shooting.”
Murray said some of her classmates see guns every day.
“It’s crazy how I go to school with kids who could go to their house and see a gun or be around guns every day,” she said. “These kids could be out in the street and a shooting can happen and they can get shot, so a lot of things should change really in Asbury with the gun violence.”
The governor acknowledged that sharing this information on its own will not, in fact, stop the scourge of gun violence, but he said more information is better than less and that “if we have to shame and blame other states, we’ll do that.”