FANWOOD/CRANFORD, NJ – Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr spoke this morning at a press conference presented by the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, firmly calling for “common sense” gun law reform and announcing the intent to “descend” on Washington D.C. on Wednesday to carry this message to Federal lawmakers.

 “Today we stand in Cranford and there are more than 10 other press events like this happening across the nation.   On Wednesday more than 50 mayors will descend on Washington.   We have had enough of phone calls and emails, we are going to sit face to face, and demand action,” said Mayor Mahr.

According to Mayor Mahr, it is “not a complicated issue - it is simple, we need to pass sane gun laws.  We need to insist on public safety before politics.  We cannot fight this battle on our own. When getting an assault weapon is easier than getting a Sudafed – no paperwork, no background checks, then something needs to change.”  She concluded her remarks with a call to action, to “stand with the survivors,” and insist that change happen at a Federal level.

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Mayors Against Illegal Guns was formed in 1996 as a bipartisan coalition co-chaired by New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and has grown from 15 mayors to more than 800, with over one million grass root supporters.

Cranford Mayor Thomas Hannen hosted the event and Roselle Mayor Jamel Holley was the moderator.  Every speaker at the event, from former New Jersey Governor James J. Florio and Union County Sheriff Ralph Froehlich, to  Senator Raymond Lesniak and Edison Mayor Antonia Ricigliano, emphasized that this coalition was not about curtailing anyone’s second amendment rights, but about common sense gun reform.

Governor Florio gave everyone a short history lesson on how gun control laws that had passed when he was in office were repealed, but his veto was not overturned once everyone understood what they were trying to accomplish. “I am embarrassed that the NRA’s response to stopping violence is to have more guns.”

 Sheriff Froehlich admitted to attending with “confused emotions.  I’m glad to stand here with the Mayors but I’m angry that this is still an issue.  What is so hard about keeping killing machines out of the hands of people who should not have them?”

Michael Pohle, father of a Virginia Tech shooting victim and a New Jersey resident, spoke vehemently about the need for reform.  “In 2007 my son was shot and killed by a man carrying high capacity magazines who exploited gaps in the background check system to obtain his guns.  This madness has to stop.”

Pohle continued on with a call for action from Federal law makers, branding his own Congressman Lenard Lance a “coward” for not taking any action beyond “asking for comment on his website.”

Mayors Against Illegal Guns has three basic changes they are proposing: 1. Requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales, 2. Banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and 3. Making gun trafficking a federal crime.

Scotch Plains Mayor Kevin Glover was also in attendance.  “We need a visible coalition to send a message not just to our area but to the whole nation. . .as a new mayor, it is critical for me to join this national bipartisan coalition. . .we know we are not immune to escalating gun violence.”

After the event, Assemblywoman Linda Stender responded to the question “what makes this time different?”  “I think this is the first time that there has been this many voices raised in a chorus of demand that we need Federal legislation.  At the State level I have sponsored bills to increase penalties and I applaud the mayors for standing up to the NRA.  We are guaranteed our right to pursue happiness, not just a right to bear arms.”

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