New Jersey’s decision to tighten its already strict gun laws is an example of what political leadership looks like.
New Jersey already had some of the strictest gun laws in the country. In response to a mass shooting at a high school in Florida, lawmakers moved to further tighten gun controls.
Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation that enacted six new laws aimed at balancing the rights of gun owners with the need to prevent the increase in mass shootings and suicides.
The measures include: requiring background checks for private gun sales; lowering magazine capacity from 15 to 10 rounds (except in the popular .22 caliber rifle); requiring mental health professionals to warn law enforcement if a person threatens violence against themselves or others; prohibiting body-penetrating ammunition; requiring residents to show a justifiable need to get a carry permit; and allowing for an extreme protective order if a court deems a person a danger to themselves or others.
None of the common-sense measures infringe on the rights of those who want to purchase or already own a gun for hunting, sport, or protection. But the measures could help prevent the mass shootings and suicides that have become all-too routine.
Indeed, states with stricter gun regulations – including New Jersey, California, New York, and Massachusetts — have fewer deaths than those that don’t, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows. Other research, including reports from Journal of the American Medical Association, supports the data and undermines the argument that gun laws do not work.
It is not just mass shootings that gun measures help prevent. States with easier access to guns also have higher rates of suicide, studies show. To be sure, the reasons for suicide are complex, but the act itself is often impulsive. Studies show that 70 percent of those who attempted suicide and failed had thought about it for less than hour, and a quarter had thought about it for less than five minutes.
A 2016 study found that the odds of successfully committing suicide are 140 times greater when a gun is used as compared with other methods. Other research shows that many suicide survivors immediately regret the attempt to take their life.
The connection between gun control and suicide is all the more important, given the surge in suicides in the United States. The CDC reported earlier this month that suicide rates increased by 25 percent between 1999 and 2006. The suicide rate was even higher in states with fewer gun restrictions.
Despite the clear connection between access to guns and mass shootings, murders, and suicides, lawmakers in many states – including Pennsylvania – continue to grossly neglect their basic duty to protect the public. Instead, many lawmakers mimic the dishonest rhetoric spewed by the National Rifle Association that any gun restriction is bad.
The mass shootings and suicides are growing public health crises impacting every demographic group in the United States. New Jersey and a handful of other states have rightly taken steps to balance the rights of gun owners against the easy access to guns. Pennsylvania and other states should follow their lead.