Law & Justice

Former Gov. Florio, Gun Violence Activists, Offer Blueprint

ccab61456d5251bcc340_41352740672_cb4b458353_z.jpg
Former Gov. Jim Florio discusses the anti-gun measures he took as governor. Credits: Matthew Hersh
30262483fd9ab6a5d1f9_41352741662_7eae22735f_z.jpg
ccab61456d5251bcc340_41352740672_cb4b458353_z.jpg

NEW BRUNSWICK - Former Gov. James Florio recalls a curious detail about his 1974 Congressional run in New Jersey’s 1st Legislative District: He had the support of the National Rifle Association. 

In today’s political climate, a nod from the gun lobby for a Democratic candidate who supports gun control is unthinkable. But 40 years ago, it was not a big deal. 

“Back when I first ran, the NRA was focused on land conservation so hunters could hunt,” Florio said Wednesday at the Rutgers School of Social Work in New Brunswick, where he headed a panel discussion, “Gun Violence: Politics, Policy & Prevention.” 

Sign Up for E-News

It made sense. The South Jersey district is home to Camden, and surrounding areas were either suburban or semi-rural. Voters interested in hunting wanted to make sure there were areas designated for hunting. 

Today, that’s all drastically changed. Florio, who as governor signed into law a tough ban on assault weapons in 1990, said the momentum exists today to achieve similar legislative triumphs. 

“What we were able to do in 1990 was what I consider to be New Jersey's finest hour. It was an inspiration for us. We've done it before and we can do it again,” he said. 

It won’t come easy, Florio warned. 

“When I signed that bill into law, I said ‘Nobody needs an Uzi. Nobody needs an AK-47,’ and now we’re wondering if it’s reasonable to have 30 bullets in the clip. Is it reasonable that police have bulletproof jackets and yet we produce armor piercing bullets?” he said. 

“Washington is a basket case,” Florio added. “Congress prohibits research on gun violence and they’ve been doing bad things instead of good things.”

The former governor signaled to the 2018 midterm elections, saying the political climate exists to address gun violence. “Being a one-issue voter is typically not a good practice, but in this case, it might be, because pro-gun people are one-issue voters.”

The panel discussion, which was attended by mostly university students, included several grassroots anti-gun violence advocates, including the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence/Million Mom March, Moms Demand Action, and the Princeton-based Coalition for Peace Action. 

“We stand for common sense solutions and we want to keep guns out of hands for dangerous individuals,” said Christine McGrath of Moms Demand Action, whose platform includes background checks on all gun sales.

“One myth of advocacy is that we've made no progress, and it’s a myth because we haven't seen any progress on the federal front. But as we’ve seen in New Jersey, we can change the culture,” McGrath said. 

Tapping into on-campus advocacy and voter registration will play a prominent role in upcoming elections, McGrath noted. 

“I need you to bottle up what you're feeling about this cause, because when we get through the primaries, we're going to need you to go door-to-door and make phone calls. We are going to have very actives races where gun violence is going to be front and center,” she said. 

Karen Kanter, of the Middlesex County chapter of the Brady Campaign, said another myth was that the seemingly disparate advocacy groups are running parallel courses. 

“You have to build a coalition so we can be more effective,” she said. “Remember that you have to persist and let people know that this is not over. You have to keep it in your consciousness and remind people that 96 people die every day of gun violence.”

Carole Stiller, also of the Brady Campaign, said this level of collaboration moves all the way down to the grassroots level as well. 

“Community members need to be advocates, too. We need people to come in and tell their story,” Stiller said. 

That element is critical in advancing any movement for the long term, said the Rev. Robert Moore of the Coalition for Peace Action. 

“That's what people power looks like. That's what democracy in action looks like. We have a big challenge ahead and if you're a student and want safe schools then you better get out and vote,” Moore said. 

William Waldman, professor and executive in residence at the Rutgers School of Social Work, said the time to take action on gun violence is now, particularly in the student activist community. 

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity, because I haven't seen anything like that since the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement,” Waldman said.

"The time to act is now.”

 

 

 

 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

Montclair

In Photos: Local Parks Flood During Monday Morning Rainstorms

April 17, 2018

NUTLEY, NJ - This morning's downpours sent torrents of water into the Third River causing it to over flow its banks.

Passaic Avenue at Brookside was closed by the Nutley Police Department shortly after TAPinto Nutley arrived to capture these images of the flooding. 

Runoff inundated Memorial Park, caused the Third River to spill over its banks in Yanticaw Park, ...

After Comparing Democrats to Nazis, Leaders Call for Resignation of Montville Committeewoman

April 12, 2018

MONTVILLE, NJ – The Montville Township Committee voted to censure Committee Member June Witty for a personal Facebook post she made on April 8 which compared Democrats to Nazis. All four members of the five-person committee asked for her resignation.

The post, a chart which states that Nazis believed in “media mind control,” “no guns,” abortion, and ...

Upcoming Events

Mon, April 23, 7:00 PM

Hospital Auditorium, Glen Ridge

Tour of the Birthing Center

Health & Wellness

Mon, April 23, 7:00 PM

First Congregational Church, Guild Room, Montclair

A Healthier New Jersey: The Murphy Administration ...

Government Health & Wellness

Letter to the Editor: Don't Complain. Vote!

April 14, 2018

Don’t Complain; Vote!

It’s no secret that people have strong feelings about what’s happening in our country. It’s also true that much of politics is local. In November, 11th District residents will have the opportunity to choose a new congressional representative who will not only serve as a critical check on the federal level, but also determine how our distract fares ...

'The Sting' shimmers and shakes at Paper Mill

‘The Sting ‘slithers and shakes at Paper Mill Playhouse

By LIZ KEILL

MILLBURN, NJ – In a premiere production of “The Sting,” Harry Connick Jr. commands the Paper Mill Playhouse stage in Millburn.

Based on the sensational Paul Newman/Robert Redford film in 1973, the 1930s plot centers on a con game and gambling, sometimes on a train between New York and ...

Register Now for the Verona Music Parent Association 3rd Annual Spring Golf Outing

April 22, 2018

VERONA, NJ - Calling All Golfers -- the Verona Music Parents Association is hosting its 3rd Annual Spring Golf Outing on May 9. at the Black Bear Golf Club in Franklin, NJ.

Registration begins at 8 a.m. with a 9 a.m. shot gun start.  Barbecue lunch will be provided.  To register visit vmpagolf.org.

All money raised will benefit the Verona High School Music Department.