This story was updated to include additional comments made by Karen Egert:
NJ Residents for Action held their second meeting Wednesday, Feb. 6 at the First Congregational Church in Westfield “to galvanize our community and New Jersey residents for the need to pass ‘sensible’ gun legislation on the federal level.”
The organization, which was started by Karen Egert following the shooting at the Newtown, Conn.'s Sandy Hook elementary school, seeks to achieve three primary goals:
- A federal ban on the sale and manufacturing of military-style assault weapons
- A federal ban on the sale and manufacturing of high-capacity ammunition magazines (with a limit of 10 rounds per magazine)
- To get elected officials to fully support The Fix Gun Checks Act (H.R. 137), which would require instant criminal background checks for every gun sale and close the “private sale loophole.”
Other members working closely with Egert, including Lori Bennet, Bill Gottdenker and Vivian Levy, emphasized the need for residents in Westfield and surrounding communities to continuously put pressure on elected representatives, of both the town and state, through letters and phone calls directly to their offices and by writing in to local publications.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition Coordinator Brian Levinson, who was not present at the meeting, but who met with NJ Residents for Action on Feb. 1, has stated that 20 to 40 percent of guns are sold by unlicensed dealers and 80 percent of gun users in jail say that they got their weapons from an unlicensed dealer.
Member David Glasker says that the NJ Residents for Action organization has “developed into an action group—a force to be reckoned with—and we stand by our conviction that gun violence in the number one safety issue of our time.”
“If everyone does a little we can accomplish a lot,” he stated. “Even just a 10-minute phone call to (Congressman) Leonard Lance (R-NJ-7th District) or a letter.”
the organization requested a town hall meeting with him during which Westfield residents could express their views on gun violence, but group members said he declined. According to members, Lance stated that “the real problem is mental health, not guns” and that he is waiting on legislation on gun control laws, which he will then “review closely.” He has shown little support for the issue in the past, members stated.
Lance's Chief of Staff Todd Mitchell said Friday via phone that the meeting between the congressman and the members of NJ Residents for Action was "fruitful and civil." He explained Lance prefers to hold a town hall meeting that covers a broad range of topics that are of interest to his 735,000 constituents rather than focus on just a single-issue.
"There's more going on in Washingon than just guns," said Mitchell, who added that topics such as the budget deficit, foreign affairs and Benghazi are equally important to residents.
While Egert said she had secured a room at one of Westfield's public schools for Feb. 18 and was hoping Lance would be available as Congress is not in session, Mitchell said scheduling needs to be a collaborative effort as Lance is booked months in advance. But to suggest that the congressman is inaccessible would be inaccurate, Mitchell said, adding that Egert was able to meet with Lance for one hour within a week to 10 days of making the request for a sit-down with him.
Further, he noted that Lance has held 16 town hall meetings since U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) was shot at a public meeting with constituents in January of 2011. Since that incident, Lance's meetings tend to be held at municipal buildings where security is heightened, Mitchell said.
Egert, in a phone call with Patch, took issue with the timeframe Mitchell stated and said she requested a meeting with her congressman on Dec. 18. She said she did not believe her meeting on Feb. 6 would be in lieu of a town hall-style meeting but rather an opportunity to plan that type of meeting together.
Lance's next meeting will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 19 at the Lopatcong Township Municipal Building located at 232 South 3rd Street in Phillipsburg. The event is free and open to the public. Area residents are encouraged to attend. For more information, please call Lance’s district office at 908-788-6900 or 908-518-7733.
Westfield Councilman David Haas was also present at Wednesday’s meeting and expressed his support for the issue of ending gun violence. At Tuesday evening's meeting of the Westfield Town Council, Haas abstained from voting on a resolution urging an end to gun violence because he said it lacked "teeth."
Said Haas: “(The town council) can’t make federal gun laws… but part of (the) goal is to help lobby our federal representatives. It makes all the sense in the world to me that as the representatives of the community, we act as a voice for the community… These (propositions) aren’t incredibly restrictive, atrocious, rights-revoking measures. These are very moderate measures.”
Haas echoed the stands taken by members earlier in the meeting: “A recent poll in NJ shows that even 90 percent of the people who live in a household that are young support a background check (for those looking to purchase guns.) We’re not talking about things that violate the second amendment.”
He also stated, as did the members of NJ Residents for Action, that he hopes that Westfield Mayor Andy Skibitsky will join the Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition of 800 mayors from around the country.
For more information visit: www.NJResidentsforAction.com. A sample letter is available here.
Marci Bandelli firstname.lastname@example.org
Lori Bennet email@example.com
Karen Egert firstname.lastname@example.org
David Glasker email@example.com
Bill Gottdenker Munibill2@aol.com
Viviane Levy firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Leonard Lance:
908-518-7733 (Westfield Office)
202-225-5361 (D.C. Office)
888-398-1642 (Newark Office)
202-224-3224 (D.C. Office)
973-654-3030 (Newark Office)
202-224-4744 (D.C. Office)
Website for email: www.tomkean.senatenj.com
Website for email: www.njkeg.state.nj.us/Selectrep.asp