Gun Violence: Why New Jersey Has Some of the Toughest Gun Laws in the Country, and Far Too Many Still Don’t Feel Safe

Written by James Curtin, Chief Business & Government Relations Officer, Acenda

Gun violence is claiming far too many lives in the United States, and in fact, is a major cause of early deaths, resulting in more fatalities than automobile accidents, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I know I use an immeasurable term when I say “far too many,” but even the loss of a single life due to gun violence, is too much for our state to endure. 

The repercussions of what seems like one mass shooting a week in this country, have left us with a host of emotions. Although New Jersey has the 2nd toughest gun laws in the nation, following California, many residents feel fearful and unsafe. The emotional and psychological trauma related to the aftermath of gun violence can linger for years and negatively impact your health, both physically and mentally, whether you’re personally involved, witness the event, or even just hear about it through the media. 

Gun violence becomes even more horrific when children and young people are involved, and lives are lost. In 2020, gun violence was found to be the main cause of death among young people, leaving many parents understandably anxious about simple day to day routines, such as sending their kids off to school. Exposure to gun violence can create a rippling effect that continues to impact children throughout their entire lives. 

We also cannot forget or deny the reality that shootings don’t affect all communities equally. People living in communities of color have been disproportionally affected by this violence. 

According to the CDC, in 2020, counties with high poverty levels had firearm homicide rates 4.5 times higher, and firearm suicide rates 1.3 times higher, as compared to counties with lower poverty levels. This data is a continuation of the long-term reality that the social determinants of health cannot be ignored if our elected officials want to balance the scales of public health, with mental health always at the forefront. 

Regardless of the national safety ratings of states like New Jersey, gun violence fatalities create a feeling of insecurity across the entire country, making it seem as though the nation has become much less safe. 

One thing we can do as community members to help spread awareness and become a part of the solution is to find a local advocacy group to be involved with, such as Salvation and Social Justice or Reimagining Justice.