PISCATAWAY, NJ – Members of Congress joined local elected officials in their stance against gun violence, announcing proposed legislation that would place further restrictions on who could purchase and own guns and ammunition.
At the children’s playground in Piscataway’s Quibbletown Park on Wednesday, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) and Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) applauded members of the township council for taking a lead with its proposed ordinance banning the retail sales of guns and ammunition within 1,000 feet of any school, park, day care center or athletic field.
Watson Coleman spoke about two related bills that she recently introduced to Congress.
“One limits the purchases of ammunition online without going to a dealer to identify yourself before picking it up,” she said. “It also captures how much ammunition a person is purchasing so it alerts law enforcement for any potential problems that need to be addressed.”
She also discussed her proposed Handgun Licensing and Registration Act of 2018 that requires a person must be at least 21 years-old to purchase a gun and must participate in a gun safety program and be licensed.
“They must submit to a comprehensive background check including fingerprints and must be relicensed every five years, so we know where these guns are and who owns them,” said Watson Coleman calling them common-sense, fundamental pieces of legislation.
“Right now, there are hundreds of bills in Congress that deal with some aspect of gun safety to make our neighborhoods safer,” she said. “But we’ve not been able to do not one thing in Congress but talk about it, kneel about it, stand silent about it. Now is the time for change.”
Pallone also called for gun initiatives that he said need to be done.
“We can’t just have these moments of silence. We have to take action,” he said, mentioning how there was an assault weapons ban in place when he was first elected to Congress in 1988. “I always talk about needing universal background checks, limitations on the number of rounds of ammunition, and bringing back the assault weapons ban.”
“New Jersey is probably the best state in the country in terms of state legislation on gun safety issues,” said Pallone, commending Piscataway for taking the initiative on gun safety on the local level. “But it’s not enough. A bad actor can buy a gun in another state and still come in to the state.”
Steven Cahn, Ward 3 Councilman and sponsor of Piscataway’s proposed ordinance said he agrees with Watson Coleman’s suggestions for sensible gun control, adding how the township government stands in support of the student activism at Piscataway High School against gun violence.
But instead of waiting for action on the federal level, “we decided to lead on the local level, with local people taking charge,” Cahn said, noting that the ordinance is in line with the 2nd Amendment and is aimed at protecting the community, especially the students across the school district.
When reached for comment about the proposed legislation and ordinance, school superintendent, Teresa Rafferty said in a statement, “The Piscataway School District strongly supports restricting gun sales near schools and other public facilities.”
"In fact, at its March 22 business meeting, the Piscataway Board of Education adopted a ‘Resolution in Support of Gun Control and Mental Health Services to Protect Our Youth’, affirming that a safe and secure school environment is essential for learning,” said Rafferty.
“The Board supports state and local laws to provide further protections for our students and schools and urges federal action to address access to, and ownership of military-style assault weapons and ammunition, the delivery of mental health services, and financial support to ensure a safe and secure school climate,” she said.
“Responsibility in who owns a gun and who can get one, the benefit in the security and safety is going to benefit everyone, including children,” said Watson Coleman adding that she doesn’t believe teachers should be armed.
“We are very much impacted by what the students in Parkland and those who have surrounded them and grown this massive outpouring of accountability,” she said. “We support that.”
Charlene Hoverter, an advocate with the Everytown Survivor Network held up a photo of her sister who was killed by a gunman in 1986.
“I am a survivor of gun violence,” Hoverter told the lawmakers. “I want to say thank you to all of you for being part of this gun violence prevention. Every little thing you do is a step in the right direction.”
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