In 2016, throughout the United States, firearms killed more than 33,000 people, and on average we saw more than one mass shooting a day. More than 90 lives a day — one every 16 minutes — are taken by a gun, which includes suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Firearms are the third leading killer among children in our nation and men between the ages of 19 and 34, the CDC reports. Each year, more than 130,000 people are shot.
As overwhelming as these numbers are, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, making its way through Congress, would force states to recognize concealed-carry firearms permits issued by other states — even if local laws prohibit issuing such permits to our own residents. Not only would this ill-conceived legislation undermine the gun-control laws New Jersey has worked to pass, but it would also impede our state's ability to make its own laws and to enforce them in the way we see fit.
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 that would put 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. Because 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 federal bill would be another vehicle that would allow special interests to sell more guns in a nation where 300 million firearms are already in circulation. This makes me sick.
In the last 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 to commit a crime with illegal guns.
If this concealed-carry law were passed, officers would see their procedures completely upended. Police officers would still be required to stop anyone who they thought might be unlawfully carrying a firearm, only to discover that this person might have a permit from out of state. That stop would have wasted time and resources that could have been better utilized stopping or deterring violent crime elsewhere. Crimes that might otherwise have been stopped could go unattended, and the safety of our communities would be that much harder to maintain.
I believe that there should be bipartisan opposition to this legislation, and I thank U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross (D., N.J.) for being a proponent of common-sense federal gun legislation and for standing vehemently against this bill.
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 no-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 and challenges from lax gun laws in Pennsylvania and Ohio. This federal bill, if signed into law, would conceivably make some of those illegal guns legal in our communities, further eroding our public safety.
This concealed-carry bill would allow individuals whom New Jersey has no record of to bring firearms into the state and carry them in a way that we prohibit our own citizens from doing. The goal of gun legislation should be to limit this kind of uncertainty and unfairness, not make our officers' jobs more difficult and our communities more susceptible to violent crime.
Louis Cappelli Jr. is Camden County freeholder director. Lou.Cappelli@camdencounty.com