New Jersey has some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation, but shooting deaths in its major cities still surged last year.
Anti-gun activists point to weapons spilling into New Jersey from other states as a large part of the problem. On Saturday, they were adding their voices to an anti-war rally to draw attention to the danger of weapons at home.
"We think that it's entirely appropriate that this rally and march will be across a bridge between Pennsylvania and New Jersey, because it's across such bridges that guns come into our state that devastate our communities," said Bryan Miller, director of CeasefireNJ, which was joining members of Million Mom March at the rally.
According to prosecutors in Camden County, of the 252 guns used in crimes there in 2003-04 that could be traced to their original point of sale, 36 percent came from Pennsylvania, while only about 14 percent came from New Jersey.
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms found that from 1992 to 1998, 80 percent of guns confiscated in crimes in New Jersey had been smuggled in from other states, according to figures cited by Republican Assemblyman Richard Merkt.
But Congress in recent years has restricted the amount of detail on gun tracing that the ATF may share with the public. Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, a Democrat and prosecutor in Trenton Municipal Court, is now pressing legislation that would require the state attorney general to begin compiling that data.
"The federal government has abdicated its responsibility in guns coming up through the border," Gusciora said. "New Jersey should at least track to find out which states these guns are coming from."
New Jersey, which received one of the highest state ratings from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence earlier this year, already bans assault weapons, restricts gun sales and possession by minors and requires permits for all gun sales.
Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association, said that while he has not seen Gusciora's legislation, efforts to focus on legal gun purchases are misplaced.
"A vast majority of firearms used in crime are obtained in the black market," Arulanandam said. "The key is to strictly prosecute anyone who breaks the law, especially firearms law. If there's anyone involved in illegal gun trade, prosecute them."
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