TRENTON—Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin today announced the creation of a statewide Office of Affirmative Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) – a first office in the nation with the specific mandate to bring civil actions against firearms companies to hold them accountable for violations of the law that harm the health and safety of New Jersey residents.
A critical component of SAFE’s civil enforcement toolkit will be the recently enacted Public Nuisance Firearms Legislation (PL2022, c.56) signed by Governor Murphy on July 5, 2022, which authorizes the Attorney General to prosecute members of the firearms industry who knowingly or recklessly contribute to a public nuisance in New Jersey through unlawful or unreasonable conduct, or who fail to maintain reasonable controls, regarding their sale , manufacturing, distributing, importing or marketing firearms-related products.
“Make no mistake about it – thanks to Governor Murphy and the Legislature, New Jersey is once again a national leader in addressing gun violence,” Acting Attorney General Platkin said. “At a time when the United States Supreme Court is undermining states’ efforts to protect their residents from the carnage of gun violence, the New Jersey State Office of Gun Enforcement will use new legislation on public nuisance to hold the arms industry accountable. With the creation of this office, we are sending a clear message to everyone in the firearms industry: if you break our laws, you will pay.
New Jersey’s sensible gun safety laws have helped the state maintain one of the lowest gun death rates in the nation. Nevertheless, New Jersey suffers hundreds of gun-related deaths each year and has not escaped the tragedy of mass shootings. In 2019, two gunmen targeted a kosher market in Hudson County in an attack that claimed the lives of six people, including a Jersey City police officer. Last year, three people were killed and 11 others injured when a gunman opened fire on a crowd gathered for a birthday party at a home in Fairfield Township. And earlier this month, nine people were injured when a gunman in a stolen vehicle opened fire on a Newark street.
SAFE’s work will dovetail with the department’s long history of working closely with law enforcement partners at all levels of government to keep our residents safe, including through smart police work. and evidence-based that leads to the arrest and prosecution of individuals, gangs and guns. traffickers who violate New Jersey’s gun laws and bring danger and chaos to our communities. Under Acting Attorney General Platkin, New Jersey has made it a priority to apprehend anyone possessing and selling illegal “ghost weapons,” which are unprinted firearms with a serial number registered with ‘a federally licensed manufacturer, and therefore extremely difficult for law enforcement to trace.
One of the tactics Acting Attorney General Platkin has used to prevent ghost guns from appearing in New Jersey communities is to establish a strategic law enforcement partnership with Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. Acting Attorney General Platkin has directed the Criminal Justice Division, in conjunction with the New Jersey State Police, AP and federal authorities, to focus their collective resources on apprehending individuals bringing illegally ghost gun kits across state lines in New Jersey. These cooperative investigations have led to the arrest and prosecution of 19 people this year. As a result of these and other ongoing efforts to protect our residents from gun violence, New Jersey law enforcement has criminally seized 2,398 firearms, including 170 illegal ghost weapons, so far this year.
SAFE’s work will be distinct from but complement the Department’s ongoing — and successful — efforts to use the state’s Consumer Fraud Act (CFA) to prevent out-of-state gun dealers from selling guns. illegal firearms products in New Jersey via the Internet. In March 2022, Acting Attorney General Platkin announced that the state had obtained a $175,000 judgment against Florida arms dealer 22Mods4All for violating the CFA by advertising and selling high-profile magazines. ability (LCM) to New Jersey Consumers Online. The judgment also permanently banned 22Mods4All from future online sales of LCM here. A second gun dealer named in this lawsuit – Florida-based Elite Aluminum – has agreed to pay a $150,000 civil penalty and stop selling LCMs in New Jersey.
But common nuisance lawsuits will provide even more robust enforcement tools, allowing the Department to hold gun manufacturers and retailers accountable for endangering the safety and health of New Jersey residents. by selling, manufacturing, distributing or marketing deadly, yet legal, firearms.
The creation of SAFE to enforce new gun public nuisance legislation advances Governor Murphy’s work to combat the epidemic of gun violence. Among other measures, New Jersey established a “red flag” law for gun violence protection orders; criminalization of firearms trafficking; enhanced background checks; reduced the maximum capacity of ammunition magazines; ghost guns prohibited; created the Rutgers Gun Violence Research Center to identify evidence-based solutions to the gun violence crisis; and has partnered with a coalition of states (New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut) to share firearms data among law enforcement.