Twice as many Verona residents have applied for gun purchase permits in the first six months of this year as did for all of last year, according to data from the Verona Police Department. The surge appears to mirror a national rise in a demand for guns that The Wall Street Journal reported on on Monday, July 14.
The VPD registered 191 permit submissions from January through June of this year, up from 88 for 2019, and the submissions include both so-called long guns and pistols. A long-gun permit allows holders to purchase as many shot guns, rifles and assault weapons as they want, although New Jersey’s gun laws specifically ban sales of many kinds of automatic and semi-automatic assault weapons. Each pistol permit is valid for 90 days and allows holders to purchase one pistol during that time, although the permit can be extended for 90 days. It is not known how many guns have been purchased with these permits and Verona does not have any gun shops. Verona has not had any gun-related crimes in recent years.
There are several steps to applying for a gun permit in New Jersey, according to VPD Chief Christopher Kiernan. Individuals must first file for a firearms ID card with the State Police, which completes a state-level background check. Those results are then sent to the police department in the applicant’s town, which runs its own criminal background check, including problems with domestic violence or substance abuse, and a mental health check. In Verona, the detective who runs these checks must then submit the results to Chief Kiernan for review.
“I urge both new and established firearm owners to know and practice safe gun handling and always properly secure any weapon,” Kiernan says. “For first time owners, I implore you to take the time to educate yourself on gun safety and I encourage prospective purchasers to enroll in a course at a local gun range.” NSSF, the firearms industry trade association, has information on the rules for safe gun handling here.
Councilwoman Christine McGrath, who is a volunteer for the gun law reform group Moms Demand Action, seconds Chief Kiernan’s safety recommendations. “My concern is the unintentional consequences of bringing a gun into the home,” she says, which can include accidental shootings, intimate partner violence and death by suicide from a firearm. “We need to talk about what it means to be a responsible gun owner.”
Moms Demand Action’s Be SMART campaign is focused on that talk. Its website has information on safely storing a gun at home (unloaded and secured in a gun safe or gun lock), as well as on how to have a conversation about guns ahead of a playdate. “We talk to parents about this in the context of other safety questions such as pets and allergies,” says McGrath. Moms Demand Action’s parent organization, Everytown For Gun Safety, notes that since the beginning of the year, there have been at least 167 unintentional shootings by children, which have resulted in 63 deaths and 110 injuries.
Securing firearms is also part of the Verona Municipal Alliance’s SAFE Homes pledge. Verona families who commit to it receive a list of all families that have made the pledge, which can also help with playdate and party planning.
McGrath believes that the public must also think about the role of firearms in suicides, and domestic violence. “More than 600 children die by suicide with a gun every year,” she says, “and two-thirds of all gun deaths are suicides, mostly white men.” Family members in New Jersey can now seek an Extreme Risk Protection Order, which makes it possible to temporarily remove a gun from a person thought to be at risk. “If anyone in Verona is concerned, they should contact the Verona Police who can walk them through the process,” McGrath adds. “The Verona Police take all these issues very seriously.”