LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

Why are more illegal guns coming into NJ?

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

Newark Police say they’re confiscating more guns including rapid-fire, military style weapons from the streets of Newark. Police Director Anthony Ambrose described the changes in both caliber, and consequence.

“The key gun is a .45 caliber and a 9mm. There’s no more ‘Saturday night specials,’ or revolvers. They’re using some powerful ammunition here and powerful weapons,” said Ambrose. “We’ve recovered assault weapons, including an AR-15, AK-47 this year. What happens is, somebody sprays somebody — you’re getting four, five people shot. So it’s one incident, but it’s five people shot. So this year, we’re seeing that we’re having an increase in victims.”

Ambrose said year-to-date, Newark has confiscated 480 guns, which is 80 more than last year and that they’re often brand new.

“I’ve never seen it this bad. Some days, we recover eight to nine guns in one day. 90 to 99 percent of them are not from Newark, New Jersey. They’re from other states that make it here,” continued Ambrose.

Most guns travel a black market route to New Jersey along what law enforcement calls the “Iron Pipeline.” The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sourced nearly 2,500 guns recovered last year in New Jersey back to 47 states and Puerto Rico. Ten states along the eastern seaboard accounted for more than 80 percent of the firearms recovered. So just how many illegal guns are in Newark? Newark hosted a no-questions-asked state buy-back last summer and got more than 1,000 weapons.

“The guns that we’re seeing are guns that are coming from gun shops down south or out west that are winding up here in Newark, New Jersey that are being purchased through straw purchasers, or you’re seeing guns that are stolen from down south or out west, and they’re ending up here,” said Ambrose.

So how does law enforcement stop the illegal flow of weapons like these? New Jersey can’t do it alone, and advocates say it’ll take a national effort.

“I voted for the Brady Law, when it came up, which provides for background checks to ensure people who should be disqualified like convicted felons, a whole group of people never get their hands on a gun. So anytime there’s illegality, the crossing of borders, it does lead to more risk,” said Republican Congressman Chris Smith.

“The problem is, some states have very lax gun laws and others like New Jersey have strong ones. And, we need to have federal action, so that as I’ve said many times, we have universal background checks, regardless of what state you’re in so that we have a ban on assault weapons regardless of what state you’re in. So, we have a limitation on the number of rounds of ammunition that you can purchase, and that should be at the federal level,” said Democratic Congressman Frank Pallone.

A recent Quinnipiac poll shows 95 percent of Americans surveyed support universal background checks for gun purchases — 94 percent among people whose household includes a gun. Legislators have called for strong federal anti-gun trafficking legislation. But both are opposed by the powerful gun lobby. Even after the mass shootings in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, Congress has not acted on gun control measures even as police continue to confiscate weapons designed to massacre.