Gov. Phil Murphy has put gun makers and dealers and financial institutions on notice that if they want to do business with New Jersey, they will have to measure up to the state’s tough gun-control standards.
Under an executive order Murphy signed Tuesday, within the next month, the state’s Treasury Department will request that all firearms manufacturers and retailers that sell to the state submit statements of their principles, including their efforts to prevent people from obtaining guns illegally. All financial institutions also will have to tell the state whether they do business with the gun industry and have codes of conduct related to gun safety or sales.
New Jersey paid roughly $1 billion in bank fees last year and spent more than $70 million on firearms, their accessories, and ammunition for the state police and other law enforcement agencies over the last several years, officials said. The state is using its purchasing power to hold the gun industry accountable, they said.
The state’s National Rifle Association affiliate criticized the order, saying the state was trying to “demonize” gun ownership.
The order is the latest in a slew of gun-control measures Murphy has pushed as a focal point of his administration, helping to make New Jersey’s gun laws among the toughest in the nation.
“Despite our efforts, every day countless residents remain at risk of gun violence regardless of where they live,” Murphy said at a news conference Tuesday, rattling off gun-violence statistics in the Garden State, including the average of 280 gun-related homicides each year and the more than 1,300 people injured in shootings.
“We have committed New Jersey to a whole-of-government approach to tackling gun violence,” he said.
State Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio said the state will "use the power of our purse strings to set an example for others.” The order does not apply to local governments, but many of them use the state’s vendor lists to make purchases, state officials said.
“Absent leadership at the federal level, it’s incumbent on states to stand up and do everything we can," she said.
On Tuesday, Murphy also joined Gov. Tom Wolf and 10 other governors in issuing a letter calling for President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) to support gun-safety measures, including passing “red flag” laws to remove firearms from people courts have determined are threats to themselves or others; closing a background-check loophole for private gun sales; and banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
These actions came on the same day the House Judiciary Committee in Washington discussed several bills aimed at preventing gun violence, including enacting red flag measures and bans on high-capacity magazines.
Tuesday’s executive order is designed to encourage gun makers and sellers to make sure they have policies to prevent theft of firearms and ammunition and to prevent the transfer of guns to traffickers, among other measures. It also directs the state to prohibit the sale of types of gun-owner insurance that the state views as encouraging improper use of firearms, such as self-defense insurance.
Scott Bach, executive director of the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, the state’s NRA affiliate, said the order was superfluous.
“This ignores the fact that there is already a thicket of federal laws and regulations governing conduct of firearms dealers across the nation," Bach said in a statement. "New Jersey’s politicians are trying to micro-manage dealer conduct beyond that, to demonize lawful private gun ownership. Their focus is on regulation of law-abiding citizens, not punishing criminals.”
He said "trying to coerce gun manufacturers into limiting what they sell to the law-abiding public restricts Second Amendment rights but makes no one safer — what is needed instead is severe punishment of actual wrongdoers.”
Murphy said Tuesday he believes many retailers and vendors adhere to the values behind his order and he said it is “not intended as an adversarial act.”
Nicholas Suplina, managing director for law and policy at the national gun-control group Everytown for Gun Safety, said that with Murphy’s order, "the Garden State has made it clear it cannot and will not wait for Congress to act.”