NEWARK, N.J. (PIX11) – In Newark and beyond, recent gun violence has taken a toll. It’s why city officials, safety advocates and federal lawmakers are making a push to tighten gun laws.
“All of the things that we have here in New Jersey to have some of the most strict gun laws in the country; the problem is there are other gun laws in other states that encroach upon New Jersey safety,” said Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.
On Monday, Baraka welcomed U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, who called on the ATF to close background check loopholes, as outlined in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.
“It’s why we need the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau to issue a rule that moves us closer to a universal background check,” said Menendez.
It was nearly a year ago when President Joe Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act into law, which is regarded as the most significant pieces of gun legislation that’s been passed in decades.
“It enhanced background checks for those under the age of 21,” said Chelsea Parsons of Everytown for Gun Safety. “It provided $750 million to support state crisis intervention programs like ‘red flag’ laws. It helps ensure domestic abusers don’t have access to firearms.”
Officials highlighted the $250 million in grant money the legislation helped unlock to go to community-based organizations, like Newark Community Street Team, a group that works to reduce violence using an evidence-based, trauma-informed approach. The group was most recently utilized last week after a shooting that left three people dead, including an 8-year-old.
“Just being there and having to intervene with family members and friends of that type of violence is really hard,” said the team’s executive director, Daamin Durden, “but giving them that moral support, giving them the clinical support that they need with social workers and things is very helpful.”
The team received a $2 million grant last year but wants to see more groups similar to theirs get the funding they need to curb gun violence.
“Communities themselves, when they have an investment, can begin to solve some of the problems and the issues for themselves,” said Durden.