LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

Murphy uses state pocketbook as weapon in gun safety campaign

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday doubled down on his gun safety initiatives, signing an executive order that harnesses the power of the state pocketbook in an effort to stem the tide of violence in New Jersey and beyond from firearms that fall into the wrong hands.

Under Executive Order 83, which Murphy signed in Morristown surrounded by gun control advocates, New Jersey will review the practices and policies of gun manufacturers and gun retailers that do business with the state and request disclosure of their standards for preventing guns from being purchased by straw purchasers, firearms traffickers or other prohibited individuals. The order would allow state government to then purchase firearms only from manufacturers and dealers it deems responsible.

The order has similar provisions relating to banks and other financial institutions, who would be called upon to certify that they follow gun safety best practices in the business they transact with the gun industry.

The order also allows the state to crack down on insurers who offer policies that “may serve to encourage the improper use of firearms.” Just last week, state regulators slapped a $1 million fine on an out-of-state insurer that worked with the National Rifle Association to market personal firearms liability insurance branded as “Carry Guard” in New Jersey.

“If we find folks not living up to our standards, we reserve the rights to stop doing business with them moving forward.” Murphy said.

Murphy’s order builds on a number of steps already taken by the first-term Democrat, who has made gun control a centerpiece of his tenure as governor and taken a leadership position on the issue on the national stage.

“I am as proud of the ‘A’ rating New Jersey received from the organization led by my dear friends Gabby Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly as I am from the ‘F’ I personally received from the gun lobby,” he said, referring to Americans for Responsible Solutions, the gun control group found by the former congresswoman, a gun violence victim, and her astronaut-turned-Senate-candidate husband.

According to the order, 280 New Jerseyans die from gun violence every year, 184 of them by suicide. Another 1,300 are injured by gunfire, nearly 600 of them in “unintentional” shootings.

New Jersey spends $70 million a year on guns and ammo for the State Police and its other law enforcement agencies. Local governments can also buy through the state.

Murphy’s move was hailed by the advocates who accompanied him.

“Gun violence has no place in our houses of worship, movie theaters, schools or our communities,” said Nicholas Suplina, managing director of law and policy for Everytown for Gun Safety. “And the state of New Jersey has shown time and again that it will do all it can to prevent these tragedies.”

“I am incredibly hopeful that with our current leadership that we really can and will eradicate this gun violence epidemic,” said Jeri Patasnik, of Moms Defend Action.

Also on hand was Alex Roubian, president of the gun rights group NJ Second Amendment Society, who adopted a wait-and-see approach to the executive order.

“The devil’s in the details,” he said. “We have to see the language specifically. But, of course, we’re always wanting to reward people that are going above and beyond, upholding the law, and we want to punish those that are not upholding the law and putting guns on the street.”

The language of the executive order takes note of the lack of action on gun safety legislation in Washington.

“In the face of numerous tragedies, and despite the evidence that gun violence prevention laws make a difference, the federal government has repeatedly failed to act and has been unwilling to pass common sense legislation to curb gun violence,” the order reads.

An an executive order, Murphy’s move requires no legislative approval. It goes into effect immediately.