There’s a deep irony in Camden Commissioner Director Louis Cappelli Jr.’s reaction to the mass shooting in Philadelphia, stating to “the thugs and criminals and gun-bearing freaks over in Philadelphia who live in a society of lawlessness. We don’t want you here. Stay out of Camden. Stay out of Camden County. Stay out of New Jersey.” After all, it was just a decade ago that Camden was the murder capitol of the United States; a designation the city held for a number of years throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. And despite substantial improvement, even today Camden is arguably a more dangerous place than Philadelphia.
It wasn’t a change in New Jersey’s gun laws that led to a reduction in violence in Camden, either. The state has long had some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation, including in the 1990s when my now-wife was a single mom of two who lived in the city. I spent three harrowing days in Camden back in 1997, but my wife lived there for eight years, and while the gun laws made it virtually impossible for her to lawfully possess a firearm they had no impact whatsoever on the large number of violent offenders in her neighborhood.
Camden’s gotten better over the past ten years since the city’s police department was disbanded and replaced by a county-wide force, but it still made the list of cities with the highest homicide rates in the nation last year, clocking 32 murders for every 100,000 residents. That’s almost identical to Philadelphia’s homicide rate of 33 per 100,000, and this year the website Neighborhood Scout named Camden the 34th most violent city in the country, while Philadelphia didn’t even make the Top 100.
In other words, Camden has more gun control laws but plenty of the “lawnessness” that Cappelli complains about in Philadelphia. The biggest difference in the two cities is the fact that if you live in Philly you at least have the ability to acquire a concealed carry license for self-defense, and you don’t need to jump through a series of hurdles or navigate a maze of red tape before you can exercise your right to keep and bear arms.
Like many high-crime communities, Camden has a disproportionate number of residents living below the poverty line; fully 1/3rd of the city according to the Census Bureau. The state of New Jersey doesn’t make it easy for anyone to exercise their right to keep and bear arms, but it’s particularly difficult for low-income residents. As the New Jersey State Police outlines on its website:
The online Firearms Application should be used only after consultation with your local Police Department or the State Police Barracks responsible for processing your firearm application. You must first obtain an Originating Agency Identifier (ORI) Number from the licensing department to complete this form. Please ensure that the agency ORI number is correct on the form. If an incorrect ORI number is entered on the form, you will NOT receive a firearms ID card or a permit to purchase. You will then have to re-apply using the correct ORI number and pay for the process again. A refund can not be issued.
If you have never been fingerprinted before for firearms purposes, you will need to go for fingerprinting. Follow the instructions/link in your confirmation email to schedule your fingerprint appointment. However, if you have been fingerprinted before for firearm purposes, upon completion of this form and payment, you will have completed both Firearms Application and 212A requirements.
All Firearms Purchaser Identification Cards and Permits to Purchase Handguns are now electronic. You will receive access to your Firearms Purchaser Identification card in your approval email. You will receive confirmation of your E-Permits in your approval email and you should provide that email to a NJ retail firearms dealer who will have access to execute your E-Permit.
In order to obtain an initial Firearms Purchaser Identification Card and permit to purchase a handgun the applicant shall review the approved course of instruction in the lawful and safe handling and storage of firearms. This course of instruction is provided through the online application process for all initial applicants.
It used to be even more difficult when multiple in-person visits were required to obtain a FID card or a permit-to-purchase a handgun, but it’s still not exactly easy, especially if you’re reliant on public transportation to get you from Point A to Point B. New Jersey lawmakers have made no secret of their desire to curtail lawful gun ownership as much as possible, and the burden they impose falls hardest on those on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder. I’d argue it’s far easier to illegally get a gun in Camden than it is to lawfully acquire one, which was certainly the case when my wife lived there.
Philadelphia definitely has more than its share of violent crime, but the same is also true of New Jersey cities like Camden, Trenton, and Paterson. One of the reasons my wife and I decided that she’d move to Oklahoma with her kids rather than me move to New Jersey is because she was eager to get her kids out of Camden, and they were far safer growing up in the Second Amendment-friendly confines of Oklahoma City than they were in the place where they were born.
Louis Cappelli, Jr. should worry a little more about “the thugs and criminals and gun-bearing freaks” operating in Camden than complaining about the supposed lack of gun laws in Philly. Maybe while he’s at it he can spare a thought or two for the good folks in bad neighborhoods who are unable to lawfully exercise their right to armed self-defense thanks to the barriers that his fellow New Jersey Democrats have placed in the way, and ponder why it is that Camden is still one of the most violent cities in the country even with all of those gun control laws in effect.