Gun-control advocates on Wednesday called attention to the violence plaguing Trenton as they urged the governor to sign a package of gun bills on his desk.
Shootings have been on the rise in the capital city and are on track for their third straight annual increase. The Times of Trenton reported 120 people were shot through the end of June.
Trenton could also set a record for homicides. As of Tuesday, the city had 23 homicides this year, mostly a result of shootings, compared with 24 for all of last year. The record was 31 in 2005.
Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, who represents Trenton, and other advocates urged Gov. Chris Christie to sign a number of gun-control bills into law.
Bryan Miller, executive director of anti-gun violence group Heeding God's Call, pointed to surveillance camera footage that captured a gun fight showing one man shooting at two others, who then shot back with guns of their own, as proof guns are too readily available.
"This is crazy," Miller said. "They just pull their guns out of their pockets like pulling out a pack of lifesavers."
The legislative package includes measures that would require federally licensed dealers to conduct background checks for nearly all private sales and would mandate that online ammunition purchases be reported electronically in real time.
Other bills would increase penalties on dealers who knowingly sell weapons to straw buyers, people who purchase weapons on behalf of people who cannot legally do so; increase reporting requirements by police when they seize weapons; and clarify that motor vehicles used in firearms trafficking are subject to search and forfeiture.
Christie spokesman Colin Reed said New Jersey already has some of the toughest gun-control laws in the country and the governor has proposed his own comprehensive plan to reduce gun violence.
"He will review the bills passed by the legislature, and announce a decision within the allotted time in the legislative process," Reed said.
Gun-control supporters said the legislation awaiting his action could save lives in Trenton and elsewhere by making it more difficult for criminals to get firearms and by increasing penalties for those caught with illegal weapons.
"People need to be able to be here and to live here and not fear for their lives or their safety," Coleman said.
The Trenton police force saw more than 100 layoffs in September 2011, which some say has led to the spike in violence. Earlier this month, the vice unit, which handles drugs, prostitution, gambling and bar violations, merged with the Mercer County Prosecutor's office in an effort to have access to more resources.