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NJ Spends COVID Funds to Combat “Gun Violence”

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Misappropriation of funds

In a press release last week, the New Jersey Attorney General announced plans to use federal COVID funding to purchase gun detection technology. Except that’s just the tip of the iceberg in this story.

According to the announcement, the Department of Law and Public Safety will award 20 law enforcement agencies across New Jersey with grants totaling $7 million for the purchase of gunshot detection technology.

Both the impetus for the grants and the planned distribution are rather bizarre when it comes to the details. For example, Franklin Township, a sleepy but growing, rural, farming community in Somerset county will receive $339,500. Franklin has a population of just over 62,000 people according to the last census, and was ranked #5 on Money magazine’s list of America’s Top 100 Best Places to Live in 2008. Not exactly a hotbed of criminal activity.

Yet, Paterson, a city well known for its rampant crime, murder, drug distribution, and police corruption, will receive only $276,108. (Coincidentally, underscoring the corruption in Paterson, yesterday the Attorney General announced a state takeover the Paterson police department.) Paterson’s population is more than double that of Franklin, nearly 160,000 according to the last census. A concerned resident might be forgiven for thinking that funds might be better utilized in Paterson than in a small, idyllic town in central New Jersey.

The New Jersey State Police received the lion’s share of funding, to the amount of $1,985,671.

Beyond the distribution, the rationale provided by the AG’s office is not only difficult to understand, but borders on misappropriation. The grants were derived from the federally-provided American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds specifically tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. New Jersey earmarked and redirected these COVID funds towards “gun safety” with the following logic:

“Violent crime is recognized as a public health challenge exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

No further explanation was offered tying the two subjects together. News2A contacted the Attorney General’s office asking for an interview and further clarification on that statement. No response was received. 

What is clear is that the grants will put the Nanny State on track to become Big Brother with ever more government surveillance over its citizens. According to the press release, the funds will be used for the “purchase or enhancement of a fully integrated network of three distinct systems, including acoustic detectors, video management technology, and automatic license plate readers.” 

Such systems can make no distinction between ordinary law-abiding citizens and criminals (until after the fact), and thus become a de facto monitoring system that can be used for any purpose the state intends, lawful or not. (Not coincidentally, for the first time in its history, beginning in 2022, New Jersey started issuing Permits to Carry a concealed firearm to qualified individuals who have undergone some of the most stringent background checks in the nation.)

While the press release states that the purpose of the grants is aimed at, “eradicating gun violence in New Jersey,” the reality is that the distribution of funds are unlikely to have any meaningful impact other than to give government more intrusive oversight in the lives of New Jersey citizens.

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