On March 20th I attended a forum, “Guns in a Civil Society,” sponsored by the Peace & Justice Committee of Holy Trinity and St. Helen's. The forum featured two speakers. Former Mayor Thomas Jardim spoke about the constitutional right of gun ownership while the Rev. Robert Moore of the NJ Coalition for Peace Action spoke about the religious context for dealing with gun violence. The speeches were followed by a discussion with people voicing their views about various approaches to preventing gun violence. I applaud this group’s effort to have a calm, informative, and useful discussion in our community about this issue.
According to a fact sheet distributed by the Rev. Moore, over 1,000,000 people have been killed by guns in the United States since 1968, the year Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Indeed, each year, on average, over 100,000 Americans are shot or killed. According to the CDC, the rate of death by firearms of children under the age of 16 in the US is significantly higher than 25 other industrialized nations combined. There is no question that there are myriad causes of these horrific statistics. But we do know instituting various policies, like universal back-ground checks, can make a difference.
Thankfully, Westfield’s residents rarely experience actual gun violence. The homicide rate in Westfield is almost non-existent. But we do from time to time have gun violence in our town or have guns confiscated by our police from individuals passing through. At the recent Westfield Police Officer’s Awards Dinner, a Westfield police officer was commended for his arrest of a carjacking suspect armed with a loaded Uzi machine gun following a motor vehicle pursuit. While we live in a very safe community, the epidemic of illegal guns affects us even here.
I was also taken by the Rev. Moore’s use of a common phrase recommending that people “think globally but act locally.” Something that can be done locally is for Westfield’s Mayor to join a bipartisan coalition called Mayors Against Illegal Guns. This coalition advocates for those policies we know work, for research into causes we don’t fully understand, and for sharing and exchanging information about the issue between mayors of communities big and small, republican and democratic. As your mayor, I would join with the other 91 New Jersey Mayors and the other 800 mayors nationwide who have joined this important effort.
Candidate for Mayor