FANWOOD, NJ -- Councilman Anthony “Coach” Carter reported that Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School students plan a walkout on Wednesday, March 14, the one-month anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.

Student activists all across the country have been galvanized by the latest mass shooting to take place in America and are planning to walk out of their classrooms to protest gun violence for 17 minutes to honor the students and staff who were gunned down in Florida.

Last week, representatives from Fanwood, Scotch Plains and the Board of Ed met with Scotch Plains Police Chief Ted Conley and Fanwood Chief Richard Trigo to discuss the march, as well as security measures in place at SPFK12 schools.

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Meanwhile, at the Scotch Plains Council Meeting on Tuesday, March 6, Mayor Al Smith voiced his support for Sandy Hook Promise, a national non-profit organization founded and led by several family members whose loved ones were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. He announced his support in a recent Letter to the Editor published on TAPintoSPF.

The mission of Sandy Hook Promise is to honor all victims of gun violence by turning tragedy into a moment of transformation by providing programs and practices that protect children and prevent the senseless, tragic loss of life. We must reach out and help lost souls before they commit acts of violence. - Mayor Al Smith

Mayor Smith discussed two bills supported by Sandy Hook Promise that he supports. One bill is A-1217/S-975, which authorizes courts to issue gun violence restraining orders to persons who pose a significant risk of personal injury to themselves or others by possessing or owning a firearm. While the mayor says he has suggestions to improve the bill to ensure due-process. The purpose of the bill is to provide law enforcement officers in New Jersey with the means to take away firearms from persons whose friends or family have reported them as being mentally unstable. 

"If this law was in effect in Florida, the Parkland tragedy might not have happened," Mayor Smith says.

The second bill the mayor described is A-2757, which requires all sales or other transfers of firearms to be conducted through a retail dealer licensed under State law or a Federal Firearms Licensee. The licensee would be required to complete a National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) on the recipient of the firearm.

Mayor Smith says that he has contacted Scotch Plains’ State legislative delegation and the Governor’s office requesting them to support the bills. He will be at the State Capitol in Trenton on March 14 for the Mayor’s Legislative Day to advocate for these bills and other Scotch Plains priorities.

Sandy Hook Promise supports common sense solutions to prevent gun violence in our communities, according to the organization's website. During Tuesday's Scotch Plains Council meeting, Mayor Smith showed a video presentation about Sandy Hook Promise's efforts to reduce gun violence -- particularly in schools.

Sandy Hook Promise promotes four programs:

KNOW THE SIGNS: People who are at-risk of hurting themselves or others often show signs and signals before an act of violence takes place. When you don’t know what to look for, it can be easy to miss signs, or dismiss them as unimportant, sometimes with tragic consequences. 

It’s important to know that one warning sign on its own does not mean a person is planning an act of violence. But when many connected or cumulative signs are observed over a period of time, it could mean that the person is heading down a pathway towards violence or self-harm. By knowing the signs, you have the power to intervene and get help for that person. Your actions can save lives. 

SAY SOMETHING: Training for children and teens on how to recognize signs, especially in social media, of an individual who may be a threat to them self or others and say something to a trusted adult to get them help.

SAFETY ASSESSMENT AND INTERVENTION: Training for schools and community organizations on how to identify, assess and respond to threatening behaviors before they escalate to violence.

START WITH HELLO: Teaches children, teens and young adults how to be more socially inclusive and connected to one another. All training is paid for by Sandy Hook Promise.

Facts About Gun Violence (source: Sandy Hook Promise)

  • Most criminal gun violence is committed by individuals who lack mental wellness (coping skills, anger management and other social-emotional skills)
  • Between 4-6% of criminal gun violence is committed by an individual who is mentally ill
  • More than 90% of individuals who die from suicide had a diagnosable mental disorder
  • Most mass shootings are planned for 6 months to a year. In almost every documented case, warning signs were given off that were not understood, were not acted upon quickly or was not shared with someone who could help
  • In 4 out of 5 school shootings, at least one other person had knowledge of the attacker's plan but failed to report it
  • 70% of people who commit suicide tell someone their plans or give some other type of warning signs

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