LYNDHURST, NJ - Congressman Bill Pascrell Jr., held a Public Safety Advisory meeting on Monday with local city officials and leaders, including the police and fire chiefs from Paterson.
The 9th District Representative met with police officers, firefighters, and community leaders to discuss gun violence, police and fire department funding, and Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. Pascrell shared his hopes of getting guns of out the hands of criminals while attendees voiced their concerns on how the three issues are affecting their communities.
More than 30 thousand people die from gun violence a year, according to Pascrell. He says more needs to be done to prevent gun violence, including increasing penalties for gun traffickers and enforcing a universal background check for gun owners.
The Reverend Michael McDuffie, an attendee of the meeting, says he sees first hand how gun violence has affected his community. The pastor of the Mighty Sons of God Fellowship Church attended the meeting to understand how faith-based organizations can do their part in eliminating gun violence. He believes political parties have to put aside their differences for any changes to happen.
“We have to create win-win situations for politicians so it doesn’t come to a stalemate,” said McDuffie. “We need to get in between these parties, bring them to the table and see the bigger issue at hand. When it becomes a political warfare, the kids get murdered in between.”
Pascrell and city officials were not only concerned about the safety of residents, but police officers, as well. Police departments across the state have been cut due to budget cuts, according to the congressman. He says officers are too often underrepresented and are without the proper equipment to protect themselves.
“If I was a state trooper I wouldn’t go on the roads,” said Pascrell. “ You have so many cars that have darkened their windows, you don’t know what the heck you’re walking up to.”
He says without effective gun policies, criminals have the ability to outgun officers, citing an incident where a suspect gunned down a police officer with an AK47.
Police officers should be as prepared as military officers, according to Pascrell.
“We don’t want a police officer driving down Main Street in a tank, but I want that police officer to be able to defend himself, let alone me,” said Pascrell.
In addition to gun control legislation, the congressman says he’s still fighting for Hurricane Sandy relief, calling on the State of New Jersey to step in and help victims.
“How many people are still homeless?” asked Pascrell. “How many insurance companies have screwed those people who are really hurting? I think the state really needs to do something about that, to help homeowners.”
Information on how to register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency for federal disaster assistance was distributed, including where to find centers for victims with questions. The deadline to register with FEMA is April 1.