WESTFIELD, NJ — Municipal officials registered support Tuesday for gun legislation including the federal expansion of background checks for gun buyers and laws allowing police to take firearms away from troubled people.
The Democratically led council approved the resolution 8-1. Republican Councilman Frank Arena cast the lone dissenting vote. The council did not, however, split on party lines as Republicans Jo Ann Neylan, Doug Stokes and Mark LoGrippo supported the measure.
“Now is the right time for our Town Council to take action as tonight we will also be acknowledging September as National Suicide Prevention Month — with suicides accounting for 60% of U.S. gun deaths — so adopting this resolution feels especially timely and appropriate,” said Mayor Shelley Brindle.
The move in support of “Red Flag” laws follows a state Attorney General’s directive issued Aug. 15 that allows law enforcement to temporarily suspend access to guns from “at risk individuals who during periods of extreme risk pose an elevated risk of endangering themselves or others.”
Brindle said Westfield would also follow the lead of the state in divesting its municipal monies from “any bank or financial institution that has investments in, or does business with, gun buyers/sellers, and firearm/ammunition manufacturers.”
While Arena said he is not a gun advocate, he does not want to follow state lawmakers' lead.
“It is very bad for this town to take the lead from the state of New Jersey,” Arena said. “We’re the laughingstock of the country in terms of our politics and where we spend our money.”
Neylan did not share Arena’s concerns about the local government’s statement on national gun legislation.
“I’m very happy to support this tonight,” she said, adding that former Republican Mayor Andy Skibitsky approved measures in support of stronger national gun laws.
Tony LaPorta, a former councilman who came to the council in January seeking its support for a nationwide ban on assault firearms, on Tuesday said he had received backing from the Union County Freeholders, Linden’s City Council, Elizabeth’s City Council and Plainfield’s City Council. LaPorta said he is confident state legislators approve action on the issue and is frustrated his municipal council has not done so.
“You still have time to jump on board the train. I think it would be good for you,” LaPorta told Brindle. “I think it would be good for the council. I think it would be good for every member of the town of Westfield.”
Resident Neal Snitow, who was in attendance at the meeting, however, is skeptical. “Criminals don’t consult the laws,” Snitow said.
Brindle said that although unique to Westfield, the municipality’s resolution was largely the result of a recommendation of a coalition of mayors she belongs to.
“I’m proud to be Westfield’s first Mayor to join the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition, and even prouder that the Town Council will be voting on a resolution to support federal action on passing red flag laws and universal background checks,” she said.
Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at firstname.lastname@example.org; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh