New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg (D) paid a special visit to the Plainfield city hall annex on the morning of Wednesday, February 23 to discuss new legislation that would re-instate a federal ban on large-capacity gun magazines.
The new bill, which is an effort to significantly decrease the chances for gun violence nationwide, comes partially in response to the January 8 shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D). Congresswoman Giffords is still recovering from a gunshot to the head by Jared Lee Loughner, which she received in an attack that left eighteen people wounded and six dead, including a nine-year-old girl, at a “Congress on Your Corner” event in Tucson, Arizona.
“The fact that Congresswoman Giffords is striving so courageously to regain her health is a constant reminder (of the need for strict gun laws)," said Lautenberg.
The original federal ban on large-capacity gun magazines lapsed in 2004, leaving it to individual states to devise their own gun laws for the general public. If the senator’s new bill becomes law, the new federal ban will resonate in New Jersey despite the fact that large-capacity gun magazines have already been made illegal on a state level. People can still purchase these magazines in other states with more lenient gun laws and bring them across state borders.
“In Arizona, we saw just what kind of massacre these weapons are capable of," said Lautenberg. “The Tucson shooter got off thirty rounds before he was apprehended, trying to change clips so he could kill more people. We don’t ever want to see that kind of destruction in our state.”
Senator Lautenberg discussed an alarming statistic, revealing that 27,000 guns were used in the United States over the course of a year to take a life by murder, suicide, and accidents combined. The 9,500 murders in the United States by guns last year are even more troubling when put up against similar statistics from other countries; England only had 39 gun deaths in 2010, and Japan only experienced 19 such deaths over the course of an entire year.
Lautenberg stressed the importance of getting the weapons off the streets -- not only for the well-being of the public -- but for the well-being of the law enforcement officers who serve to protect them
“These weapons don’t just threaten us," said Lautenberg. “They put our police officers in greater danger.”
Martin Hellwig, Plainfield’s Director of Public Safety, agreed with that notion. Hellwig cited a statistic that his narcotics unit took a total of 86 illegal firearms off the streets in 2010.
“That has to say something about the extent that our police officers are exposed to danger on a daily basis," said Hellwig.
Senator Lautenberg has been successful in getting gun legislation passed previous to this. In 1997, the senator was able to get a bill made into law which prohibited spousal abusers from obtaining gun licenses. To date, over 200,000 people with a history of spousal abuse have been denied gun licenses since the law was passed.
“They said it couldn’t be done, but that didn’t stop me," said Lautenberg of the 1997 law. “I learned the hard way from poor, hard-working parents that you’ve got to stand up for things.”
Key officials from the town of Plainfield, as well as all over the state, were on hand to give their take on Lautenberg’s new bill.
“We’re not against the second amendment. I don’t think anyone wants to take guns from hunters or people who go through the process to get a gun," said Jersey City Mayor Jerry Healey, who along with Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, serves as part of the New Jersey Urban Mayor’s Association. “It’s about illegal guns -- allowing someone to have a gun with thirty rounds in it.”
“I think it’s very important legislation," said Healy, “and I know that that kind of legislation will save lives.”
Mayor Robinson-Briggs stressed that the removal of large-capacity weapons will not only prevent gun violence in urban areas of New Jersey, but everywhere across the state and nation alike.
“It’s not just for urban municipalities. It’s for all municipalities," said Robinson-Briggs. “This legislation will help to save lives across the board.”