As we continue to mourn the deaths of the children brutally murdered in Newtown, Connecticut, the issue of gun violence is rightfully so in the mainstream.
The National Rifle Association has a solution to gun violence - whether it is a member of Congress being shot at in Arizona, a school shooting in Connecticut or a mentally ill individual in a crowded shopping mall unloading his rifle - a solution of calling for armed guards at schools. I want to examine, why, as a nation, this is horrible federal public policy and just a sideshow distraction by a gun industry only interested in one thing: money.
The gun industry (like so many other corporate industries, whether its cigarettes, oil or defense), has some of the most well-paid and powerful lobbyists in the country. Make no mistake about it, nobody is attacking anyone's 2nd Amendment rights. The gun lobby has a job to make it as easy as possible to make sure guns are easy to purchase, even if it is someone who fails a background check or is mentally unstable. They have one goal and that is to make sure gun manufacturers sell guns. You have an extreme group of the population that is 110% in support of the gun lobby, characterize this as an attack on the 2nd Amendment and want to make everything about that 'attack'. Fortunately, that is a fringe group in our country. Unfortunately, that fringe group can make a lot of noise.
The overwhelming majority of Americans can agree, that together, Democrats, Republicans and Unaffiliateds should come together to stop illegal guns from getting into our cities. The overwhelming majority of murders in Newark and Camden are from illegal guns. That should be the primary focus.
Second, the majority of Americans agree that if you are a law abiding citizen who so desires, you should be able to purchase a basic gun for self-protection. However, why should non-military and non-law enforcement folks be able to purchase an AK-47 or another type of gun?
Third, background checks need to be enforced so that those who have a criminal record, or is an undocumented resident or is mentally unstable is unable to purchase any type of gun, period. Similar to how we penalize bar owners for serving alcohol to minors, the severest penalties need to be given to any gun shop owner or manufacturer who sells a gun to any of the above categories and more.
Together, these are 3 areas that a strong majority of Americans agree on and Congress and the President should enforce these areas to the strictest. We currently aren't even stopping illegal guns or those who are mentally unstable from purchasing a gun!
Putting tens of thousands of guns now in schools throughout the country with armed guards does nothing to solve the situation. What happens if more than one attacker comes into a school, like a Columbine, where they had an armed guard?
What happens if at a place like a police station, such as in South Jersey earlier this week, a gun is stolen from a police officer and three people are shot?
How is this plan financially feasible? Armed guards could cost up to $100,000 each and where does that end? Do we put armed guards whereever children are? Churches? Playgrounds? Public transportation? Shopping malls? Beaches? Where else? This is not Israel and we are not at war constantly fearful of an enemy about to bomb us. What is the psychological impact to students of having an armed guard at every school? Do you feel safer seeing guards at airports?
My point is simple...has this well-publicized plan thoroughly been discussed or analyzed before the National Rifle Association and right-wing extremist members of Congress announced this as the solution? Some on the far right compare this to 9/11 and air safety. We don't have air marshals on every flight and the threat of global jihadist terrorism is a lot different than a mentally ill 20 year old.
As a Democratic County Chairman, this is my view. I happen to agree with Republican Governor Chris Christie as he and I agree on why we should not have a federal policy of putting armed guards in schools. However, I don't take issue with any school district who believes they need an armed guard at a school.
The Democratic Party Mayor of Marlboro Jon Hornik, Democratic Council members and the elected Marlboro Board of Education came out strongly in favor of armed guards at the Marlboro Schools. I don't disagree with their decision because I don't have the same information or same knowledge as Mayor Hornik and the Board of Education has on what goes in the Marlboro schools.
In fact, I don't have an issue with any individual school district that chooses to do it. That is why there is an elected Board of Education who the people entrust to make those choices and local residents will evaluate if that is what’s best for the children in that town. Elected Board of Education members have information at hand regarding the safety of their district schools that the general public does not have. I am sure there are school systems in Newark and Jersey City that may have several armed guards working there. I do, however, take issue with a proposed NRA federal policy mandating that on all schools spend millions of dollars placing armed guards at every school district throughout the country.
At the end of the day, until we first address why those suffering from mental health illness are able to purchase guns, illegal guns in general and legislation preventing background checks, the situation will continue.
The extreme National Rifle Association is trying to divide this country and they are succeeding, by talking about armed guards as if that is the solution of gun violence. Thirty three people are dying every day due to gun violence, most of it illegal gun violence, and the policies advocated by the gun lobby are why this is happening.