SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ – Approximately one hundred local residents, law enforcement officials, and members of the Scotch Plains and Fanwood governing bodies attended a gun violence awareness event hosted by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense NJ on Thursday, Sept. 29 at the Scotch Hills Country Club's Shady Rest Clubhouse.
Scotch Plains Mayor Kevin Glover delivered the opening remarks for the program that featured Union County Sheriff Joseph Cryan, Scotch Plains Councilwoman Colleen Gialanella, Lauren O’Brien, Union County Group Leader for Moms Demand Action, Dr. Alan Thomas, Dr. Stephanie Bonne, and Charlene Hoverter, who told a moving story of her first-hand experiences with gun violence.
Cryan, who was sworn in as Union County’s Sheriff last year, went into detail on the significant investments in training and safety programs that law enforcement has undergone in recent years and how they are being implemented by officers today. These investments, he says, are helping reduce the impact of tragedies and credited the recent capture of the bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami to the training and safety protocol of officers.
One of the areas he’d like to see improvements made to, however, is the continuing the focus on background checks and keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people.
“It’s a continuing, frustrating problem,” Cryan said. “It’s time to stop the violence.”
Dr. Thomas of the Summit Medical Group and Dr. Bonne, Assistant Professor of Surgery at Rutgers NJ Medical School whose clinical practice is at the NJ Trauma Center, offered a comprehensive overview on the costs of gun violence, which is not limited to just financial costs. The physicians explained that gun violence has a tremendous impact on both the physical and emotional psyches of victims and that is hard to measure.
“We need data on what are the interventions that work best and right now we don’t really know,” said Dr. Bonne. “We need to create a multi-faceted approach and understand that not one single facet will solve the gun violence issues.”
Charlene Hoverter, a Jersey shore resident, made a one-hour trip to tell her tragic experience with gun violence, which claimed the life of her sister, Diane, three decades ago. She narrated the grim details of how her mother had to identify her sister’s body and the emotional affects that it had on her family.
“All of us had to continue without her love, without her fun because someone with a gun took her life so easily,” an emotional Hoverter explained. “After 30 years, the gunman was never identified, so there was no justice.”
Hoverter added that the story of losing her sister to gun violence is closest to her heart, but she admitted to losing two others – a cousin from suicide and another family member in St. Louis, MO – to gun violence.
“This must not be,” she said. “We must be angry and shocked at every senseless killing that happens.”
Councilwoman Gialanella explained her personal experiences of gun violence and sympathized with the victims.
“I want you to think about the people you love and that’s the reason we are here today,” said Gialanella, who spoke on raising awareness for gun violence, especially as it relates to younger generations. “Gun violence is something that can affect any home.”
“In this country where a gun can be a common household item, we must have more conversations about what the means,” said Lauren O’Brien, Union County Group Leader for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense NJ, which brings awareness to gun safety and supports survivors of gun violence. “It is my privilege to facilitate forums like this where experts can inform the public about the realities of gun violence and how to avoid it.”