PISCATAWAY, NJ – With gun control and school safety on the minds of many students, a group of 6th graders at Piscataway’s Theodore Schor Middle School wanted to know more about how other laws impact everyday life in the Garden State.
Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) stopped by Tuesday morning to answer their questions and give examples of how the lessons they are learning in their social studies classes affect the world around them.
“They were learning about how the government works and came up with a lot of good questions on their own,” said their social studies teacher, Erin McCaffrey who helped arrange for the congressman’s visit.
Pallone applauded the anti-gun rallies that just took place, assuring the middle schoolers that the student activism shown across the country is starting to work.
“This is a movement that’s been activated by students,” he said about the student led social justice groups that have been demonstrating for more protections from gun violence. “Changes have been going on at the federal level so it’s proving to be effective.”
“It’s pretty clear that restrictions on criminal background checks, or a prohibition on certain types of assault weapons, or limiting the rounds of ammunition, all of these could be put in place without infringing on the 2nd Amendment,” said Pallone who explained that a Supreme Court ruling allows for such controls if they are deemed necessary for the general good.
“We have to have some very strong gun safety laws in place because we don’t want the mass shootings that keep getting more frequent,” he said, adding how children are also being killed in gang related gun violence.
The students also asked about other subjects including how the government could create more well-paying jobs across the state, affordable college and health care options, and eliminating off-shore dumping.
Pallone told them how Gov. Phil Murphy plans to make New Jersey an innovation center and that new technology will bring better job opportunities to the state. But first, investment programs are needed from the federal government to fund major infrastructure projects such bridge and road construction, he said.
And while some advocate for free college tuition, especially to attend county and state schools, the costs would have to be offset with federal government funding which isn’t yet available, said Pallone. Therefore, New Jersey lawmakers are looking into options to help control rates.
Although garbage is no longer dumped off the shores of New Jersey, Pallone said there is a push for offshore oil and natural gas drilling along the entire Atlantic seacoast which he opposes.
“This affects the environment and would mean beaches would have to close,” he said.
As 11 and 12-year-olds, the 6th graders wanted to know how they could make a difference at their young ages.
“If your school has one, get involved with your student government and public speaking, or join the debate club as a start,” said Pallone, adding they could also help with election campaigns, stuffing envelopes or passing out flyers.
“And if you have an idea for a bill, contact my office,” he added, noting how impressed he was with their level of engagement. “These are not tough questions, but important questions.”
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