PATERSON, NJ - Mayor Andre Sayegh, by his own admission, started a Monday press conference at Paterson City Hall by “stating the obvious”:
“Paterson has an illegal gun problem,” he declared.
Surrounded by more than a dozen members of the Paterson Police Department, as well as, perhaps more importantly, as many community safety advocates, Sayegh announced that the city would be joining forces with Mayors Against Illegal Guns, an initiative of Everytown for Gun Safety, to help combat the violence that has long-plagued Paterson.
The Everytown coalition, speakers said, has already implemented a number of strategies that have worked across the nation, and will be, at the invitation of Sayegh, bringing their expertise to Paterson. Included in their efforts, Michael-Sean Spence, the group’s director of policy and implementation, said, are advocating for stronger gun safety legislation, collecting data, and implementing violence prevention strategies.
“Illegal guns have no place in Paterson,” Sayegh declared, adding that efforts would include utilizing counselors to help victims of gun violence, that, by determining the individual’s housing, economic, and job status can help to “break the cycle and end the retaliation.”
Making another return the building from where he once ran the city, Congressman Bill Pascrell recalled the 1998 signing of New Jersey’s Assault Weapons Ban, then the strongest in the nation.
Because federal lawmakers, and other states, have failed to act since, Pascrell lamented, guns continue to cause angst in cities like Paterson.
“If we don’t pursue where guns are coming from it’s meaningless,” he said. “It’s a bumper sticker.”
Also attending the event were representatives of the Paterson CeaseFire Group and the StreetKeepers, both groups long active in efforts to end gun violence. While Casey Melvin offered gratitude to the Sayegh Administration for “standing by the community, not just by words but also by action,” his counterpart Rahshon Dixon added that their efforts are focused on “putting boots on the ground.”
“We are going to meet them where they’re at,” he said of those committing violence. “I’m going to fight until I can’t fight anymore.”
Concluding the press conference with the same enthusiasm as Dixon showed, Sayegh suggested that it’s the “united front” of all that were gathered that would make the difference.
“Paterson will be a safer city, a stronger city.”
Know a story we should share with readers? Email editor Steve Lenox and tell him about it.