Dear Editor:

Since the day I was sworn-in as Mayor, I have made the safety of Scotch Plains residents, especially our children, my highest priority.

Working with the Township Council, Police Chief Conley and his dedicated Police department, we have added two new police officers and various promotions to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of our Police force. School safety is always at the top of our list when we meet to discuss safety issues.

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This past Wednesday, I convened a meeting with Scotch Plains Police Chief Conley, Fanwood Police Chief Trigo, Superintendent Dr. Hayes, School Business Administrator Debbie Saridaki, Office of Emergency Management Director Dennis VanNatta, and Fanwood Councilman Anthony Carter to discuss additional measures to enhance school safety and preparedness. I have also had discussions with concerned residents and parents. Rest assured, that ensuring the safety of our children and schools is the highest priority for me, and as I have been doing since sworn-in, I will continue to meet with officials to make sure our schools and children are safe.

To help with our efforts, I have joined 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. 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. I plan to bring the programs promoted by Sandy Hook Promise to Scotch Plains through the Mayor’s Wellness Program so stay tuned for more information. You can learn more here: https://www.sandyhookpromise.org/

I will also be speaking with our state and federal representatives about gun legislation. I believe that we can pass regulations and laws to prevent gun violence while still preserving and protecting the 2nd amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.

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. I do have some suggestions to improve the bill to ensure due-process, but 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.

Another bill 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.

I have contacted Scotch Plains’ State legislative delegation and the Governor’s office requesting them to support the bills. I will be at our State Capitol in Trenton on March 14 for the Mayor’s Legislative day to advocate for these bills and other Scotch Plains priorities.

We have been called to action. And I will answer this call. Please join me in these efforts.

Mayor Al Smith