Interstate 95 in New Jersey is nicknamed the “Iron Pipeline” because it is a popular route for criminals smuggling firearms from the South into Newark and other Northeastern cities where gun violence abounds, says the Newark Star-Ledger. A big link in that pipeline is the New Jersey Turnpike, where the New Jersey state police used to seize scores of guns every year. They don’t anymore. Gun arrests and gun seizures have plummeted on the turnpike in the last decade. Since 1995, the number of gun-related arrests by troopers on the turnpike dropped 91 percent, to 17 last year, and the number of seized guns fell 87 percent, to 15.
The decline comes when homicides and shootings are on the rise in Newark, the state’s largest city, where cops are taking record numbers of firearms off the streets. When those illegal guns are traced to their original sale, the most common source states are along the I-95 corridor in the South — Florida, Georgia, Virginia, the Carolinas –where gun laws are much laxer than New Jersey’s, according to police. Officials attribute the decline in gun seizures and arrests on the turnpike to a shift in police strategy away from aggressive roadside searches and toward more city patrols and larger investigations. “The bottom line is that over the last seven years we’ve adopted a different playbook and different rules of engagement,” said State Police Superintendent Rick Fuentes. “I would much rather go after the sources or supply of weapons than to engage in some gut-wrenching searches for these weapons. That’s the more prudent way to do it.”