Press Release

Giffords Expert Joins New Jersey Leaders at Roundtable to Highlight How the State Can Reduce Violence in Urban Communities

Giffords-backed NJ 2.0 Package provides the Garden State funding for evidence-based programs that will prevent gun violence in urban communities

Legislation solidifies New Jersey as a nationwide leader in fighting gun violence

February 26, 2019 — An expert from Giffords, the gun violence prevention organization founded by former Representative Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Captain Mark Kelly, met with Governor Phil Murphy, Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, and Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald to highlight how the state can reduce urban gun violence. They were joined at a roundtable by leading New Jersey advocates to discuss a new package of bills proposed by Majority Leader Greenwald, through collaboration with Giffords Law Center, that would provide investments in evidence-based violence prevention programs that will assist the communities most impacted by gun violence. While New Jersey is a nationwide leader in fighting gun violence, a report from Giffords Law Center found the problem still costs New Jersey taxpayers $273 million every year.

“Gun violence casts a shadow over too many New Jersey communities,” said Mike McLively, director of the Urban Gun Violence Initiative at Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “While New Jersey leaders have relentlessly pushed for smart gun laws that have resulted in one of the lowest gun death rates in the country, there is work to do. Gun homicides create too many tragedies and leave many neighborhoods feeling hopeless. But by making substantial investments in evidence-based strategies, we give power back to residents of the most impacted cities to address the root causes of these problems. We applaud Governor Murphy, Assembly Majority Leader Greenwald, and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg for having the vision to push for this package that will save lives and pay for itself many times over.”

“New Jersey is committed to being on the right side of history when it comes to protecting our children and families from the ongoing national epidemic of gun violence,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “Since taking office, I have enacted seven new gun control laws to make our state meaningfully safer, but there is still work to be done. I am confident that by working with partners like Giffords, we can take steps to prevent future violence and support the communities most impacted by the scourge of gun violence.”

“The tragic impact of gun violence on our communities is too severe to ignore,” said Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald. “It is time to take bold action on this public health crisis and engage our community and health organizations, providing them with the resources they need to implement effective violence intervention programs, which have been shown to prevent future tragedies from occurring.”

“We have done great work improving gun safety for NJ residents since Governor Murphy took office,” said Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg. “Still, there is more work to be done. In the past three months, there have been 206 shooting victims in state, of which 37 were murdered. In the same span of time, 82% of crime guns recovered by police have come from out of state. We are considering a package of bills that will aim to reduce the proliferation of out-of-state guns, and further increase the safety of our cities and urban areas. I look forward to working with the governor and my colleagues in the legislature to get this done.”

“The most effective ways to shrink violence begin and end with individual communities,” said Will Simpson, a senior strategist for Equal Justice USA, a national organization that has partnered with Newark organizations like Newark Community Street Team as part of its mission to transform the justice system. “That’s just one of the reasons why this legislation is incredibly exciting. Our state has an opportunity to invest in the organizations that are using community-centered strategies grounded in racial equity to heal the trauma that feeds so much violence.”

“We’ve had part of the solution correct when someone is harmed; we deploy law enforcement to apprehend the perpetrator, however we haven’t deployed therapists, healers and counselors to stop the ripple effect of trauma caused by gun violence. Support for community-based violence intervention is essential,” said Aqeela Sherrills, director of the Newark Community Street Team.

Because of effective policies implemented by state officials New Jersey has a gun death rate half the national average. This new package of bills furthers that record and solidifies New Jersey as one of the top national leaders in addressing gun violence. NJ 2.0 Package builds on these successes with legislation that will:

  1.    Create and Fund the New Jersey Violence Intervention Program (NJVIP). This bill will help launch and enhance violence reduction initiatives in communities impacted by interpersonal gun violence. Modeled after effective state grant programs in Massachusetts and New York, the New Jersey Violence Intervention Program would provide competitive multi-year grants to cities and non-profit organizations implementing effective, evidence-based violence intervention initiatives.
  2.   Create the Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Program Initiative. In many cities, hospitals see a “revolving door” of gunshot injury, since patients who have been shot are at a very high risk of being shot again and of perpetrating retaliatory violence.  HVIPs work with gunshot patients in and after their admission to the hospital to interrupt these cycles of violence. Yet, these programs are currently only operating in two of New Jersey’s hospitals. This package includes legislation to direct the Office on Minority and Multicultural Health to lead a new initiative to promote and coordinate implementation of hospital-based violence intervention programs (HVIPs) across the state. It also requires the state’s victim counseling service centers to create new partnerships with hospital trauma centers to connect gunshot patients with HVIPs and similar violence prevention programs.
  3.    Ensure that Medicaid and the Victims of Crime Compensation Agency will cover the cost of violence prevention counseling services for gunshot victims. A large share of gunshot victims have health insurance through Medicaid, meaning that the state health insurance program has an important role to play in violence prevention efforts. In order to ensure that more gunshot patients receive violence prevention counseling services, this bill would require the state Medicaid program to cover violence prevention counseling services provided to Medicaid-eligible gunshot patients. This package would also authorize the state Victims of Crime Compensation Agency to reimburse violence prevention counselors for providing services to victims of gun violence who are not eligible for Medicaid or whose insurance does not otherwise cover those services.

Related Resources: 

REPORT: New Jersey Gun Violence Impact Analysis and Policy Audit

REPORT: Investing in Intervention: The Critical Role of State-Level Support in Breaking the Cycle of Urban Gun Violence

REPORT: Economic Cost of Gun Violence in New Jersey

This comprehensive report released recently by Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, notes that local businesses are severely impacted when gun violence occurs, as shootings keep customers and tourists away and often limit hours of operation. On average, there are 2,014 shootings in New Jersey each year, resulting in directly measurable costs of over $1.2 billion annually. That includes:

  • Healthcare costs: $93 million
  • Law enforcement and criminal justice expenses: $131 million
  • Costs to employers: $8 million
  • Lost income: $918 million

Much of this tab is picked up by the public. Up to 85% of gunshot victims, for example, are either uninsured or on some form of publicly funded insurance. Additionally, law enforcement efforts are funded entirely by taxpayer dollars. As a result, the direct annual cost of gun violence to New Jersey taxpayers is approximately $273 million.

Even more striking, when indirect costs that impact families and communities are factored in, the overall estimate of the economic cost of gun violence rises to $3.3 billion per year.

REPORT: Securing a Safer Future: How Incentives for Gun Safety Technology Can Stop Shootings