TRENTON – Law-enforcement agencies in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut are going to start sharing crime gun data on a regular basis, Gov. Phil Murphy and his peers from those states announced Thursday.

In addition to investigating violent crimes, the governors said the cooperative effort will help identify and apprehend straw purchasers, suspect dealers and firearms traffickers. They made it official in an online meeting.

“When we work together as regional partners to enact regional solutions, we’re far better off than if we all go on our own,” Murphy said. “And a critical piece of this is sharing information so we can put smart policies to work.”

“None of us on the screen here are blind to the fact that our individual states’ gun laws are only as good as those in the rest of our neighborhood,” he said.

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“Despite our best efforts, despite our gun safety laws, we have more damn guns on the street than we ever had before,” said Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont. “And if you’re not taking guns seriously, you’re not taking law and order seriously.”

Over the first nine months of 2021, according to data published by the Attorney General’s Office, more than 85% of the crime guns recovered in New Jersey that could be traced came from out of state – 264 of 1,853, including 89% of guns traced between July and September.

“Our state and frankly our region remains the final destination for guns flowing from the South, especially along the Iron Pipeline,” Murphy said. “Fully 25% of traced crime guns come from just three states: Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, where weak gun laws are ripe for exploitation.”

Left unsaid by Murphy is that the single-biggest state as a source for crime guns traced in New Jersey this year has been Pennsylvania, the place of origin for 274 guns – even more than the number from New Jersey.

Murphy also left off two other states that are major sources of guns, Virginia and North Carolina, which like Pennsylvania – and unlike Florida, Georgia and South Carolina – have Democratic governors. Both are much bigger sources than Florida, and Virginia this year also tops South Carolina.

Echoing New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, Murphy said he expects other states to join the information-sharing effort or set up ones of their own.

“The reality is that guns don’t understand the concept of state lines, but those who purchase them do. Working together we can as a region put in place the safeguards we need to combat the trade in illicit guns as we continue imploring Congress to enact strong national gun safety measures,” Murphy said.

“This is a coalition that I believe should grow, and it will grow as we welcome in more our fellow governors and fellow states,” he said. “In the absence of national action in Congress, maybe there are different coalitions in different parts of the country who may not be neighbors with us but should be doing the same thing.”

Guns were a daylong theme for Murphy Thursday, both on his official and campaign schedules. He attended an evening rally in Moorestown with former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Arizona, who was severely injured in a 2011 assassination attempt in which six people were killed.

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