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September 13, 2017

Gun law would undermine public safety in Camden County and New Jersey

In 2016, firearms killed more than 33,000 people and on average we saw more than one mass shooting a day throughout the nation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 90 citizens a day or one life every 16 minutes in the United States of America is taken by a gun, which includes suicide.

These statistics are alarming, but do not include the other 130,000 permanent wounds created by guns on a daily basis from shootings that only maim and do not kill. In fact, according to the CDC, firearms are now the third leading killer amongst children in our nation and men between the ages of 19-34 years old.

As overwhelming as these numbers are, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, currently making its way through Congress, proposes that states be forced to recognize concealed-carry firearms permits issued by other states – even if local laws prohibit issuing such permits to our own residents. In New Jersey, we have worked to pass some of the toughest gun control legislation in the country and we cannot afford to have those efforts rolled back by an overreaching federal law which puts the safety of our citizens and law enforcement officers in jeopardy.

In a nation where many of our elected officials are in the pocket of the National Rifle Association, buying a gun has become as easy as walking down the street and buying a gallon of milk. As many of our lawmakers refuse to stand up to the NRA, we have experienced a slow and dangerous creep of access to tools that are being used to compromise our community and law enforcement. This bill is another vehicle for the special interests to sell more guns in a nation where 300 million firearms were sold last year and it makes me sick.

In the past five years alone, more than 180 police officers have been killed by firearms in the line of duty. Recent efforts that Camden County has spearheaded, such as a gun buyback program that took more than 4,000 unwanted guns off the streets, were intended to make our police officers’ jobs safer and easier. When we have strict standards for who can carry a firearm and how, it keeps our officers from having to make unnecessary and time-consuming stops, and lets them focus on the individuals who intend on committing a crime with illegal guns.

If this law were to take effect, officers would see their processes completely upended. Police officers would still be required to stop anyone that they think may be unlawfully carrying a firearm, only to discover that this person may have a permit from out-of-state. That stop will have wasted time and resources that could have been better utilized stopping or deterring violent crime elsewhere. Crimes which may have been stopped could go unattended, and the safety of our communities will be that much harder to maintain.

I believe that there should be bipartisan opposition to this legislation. I want to thank Congressman Donald Norcross for being proponent of common sense federal gun legislation and standing vehemently against this bill. Not only does this ill-conceived legislation seek to diminish existing gun control laws New Jersey has worked to pass, but it impedes on our state’s ability to make its own laws and to enforce them in the way we see fit.

While Congress has failed to pass legislation that implements universal background checks for gun owners, and cannot come to terms about restricting gun purchases for individuals on the federal do not fly list, states should be free to craft restrictions and legislation based on the wishes of our own communities. In Camden County, our police officers are constantly working to combat illegal guns from out of state, namely the “iron corridor” in the south and challenges from lax gun laws across the river in Pennsylvania and Ohio. This bill, if signed into law, will now conceivably make some of those illegal guns legal in our community further eroding our public safety.

If passed and signed into law, this bill would allow individuals which New Jersey has no record of to bring firearms into the state and carry them in a way which the state has prohibited its own citizens from doing.

The goal of gun legislation should be to limit this kind of uncertainty and unfairness, not to make the jobs of our officers more difficult, and our community more susceptible to violent crime.

Louis Cappelli Jr. is Camden County Freeholder Director.

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Disclosure: U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross, D-1st, is the uncle of PhillyVoice Founder and CEO Lexie Norcross.