When it comes to fears over gun violence, New Jersey ranks as one of the most-concerned states in the country, according to SafeWise's "The State of Safety in America 2021" survey.

According to FBI statistics cited in the survey, more guns have been sold in New Jersey so far this year than in 2019, while at the same time, numbers from the New Jersey State Police show that gun violence is on the rise in the Garden State.

Rebecca Edwards, lead safety reporter at SafeWise, said the survey found that 67% of New Jersey residents are highly concerned about gun violence daily, much higher than the national average at 53%.

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She said what's interesting is that the states that are most worried about gun violence don't tend to necessarily be states that have higher gun sales or have the highest gun ownership rates. They are also not states where it's easy to get guns.

Since New Jersey has some of the strictest gun ownership laws in the country, Edwards  believes that guns may be less familiar to more of the population. However, with headlines coming at people every single day about more incidents of gun violence, that heightens awareness, Edwards said.

The report, citing statistics from the FBI, said over 135,000 firearm background checks have been performed in New Jersey so far this year.

"We're already at 76% of what was sold in 2020," Edwards said.

But she also said things are starting to slow down. There were 28,000 gun checks performed in New Jersey in January versus 17,000 in June, that's 39% fewer people seeking firearms in June than in January.

One reason why New Jerseyans might be so concerned about gun violence is because the number of people touched by it has increased in the state, according to the survey.

Edwards said 8% of the people SafeWise talked to across the country for their survey said they had an experience with gun violence in the past 12 months. In New Jersey it was 9%. In 2020, it was only 5%.

"So that's probably a contributing factor as to why it's top of mind for folks," Edwards said.

When asked whether they are worried a gun incident could happen to them, 47% of New Jerseyans said yes. That compares to a national average of 38%. Additionally, 70% of New Jersey residents indicated that they think crime is on the rise.

And while more are concerned that gun violence can happen to them, it's not stopping some from owning a gun for protection. Thirteen percent of those surveyed in New Jersey said they protect their property with a firearm, up 5% from 2020.

The survey also found mass shooting incidents and officer-involved shooting incidents did not see huge spikes in New Jersey from 2019 to 2020. There was only one more mass shooting incident year-over-year and officer-involved shootings were cut nearly in half.

"So the most startling thing that always comes out of our surveys is that our perceptions and our feelings doesn't always match reality. That's good news because usually that means we're more worried than we need to be," Edwards said.

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