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Bill Dressel, League Executive Director



Bill Dressel

Twelve students and one teacher killed at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999. Five children, aged 7 to 13, killed at the West Nickel Mines School in rural Pennsylvania in 2006. At Virginia Tech, in 2007, 32 were massacred. Then in December, eight boys and 12 girls, aged six and seven, were murdered, along with six adults, in Newtown, Connecticut.

  “This is our first task,” said President Obama, “caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged. And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we’re meeting our obligations? Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children, all of them, safe from harm? …I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer’s no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change.”

The president recently proposed a series of measures aimed at making our schools and streets safer. These included (1) requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales; (2) reinstating a ban on assault weapons; (3) limiting ammunition magazines to ten rounds; (3) banning "cop killer" or armor piercing bullets; (4) increasing criminal penalties for so-called "straw purchases" (when someone buys a weapon for someone else) and lying on background checks; (5) allowing COPS funds to be used to pay for school resource officers; (6) expanding the nation's tracking system on violent deaths to cover all states; and (7) expanding mental health programs for young adults.

He also initiated 23 executive orders to address gun violence. Many of these will make it easier to keep guns out of the wrong hands here in New Jersey. These included (1) requiring federal agencies to make available the information necessary to conduct adequate background checks; (2) addressing legal barriers that might make it difficult for states to share mental health information; (3) improving incentives for states to share information with the background checks system; (4) reexamining the categories of individuals prohibited from purchasing guns; (5) starting a safe gun ownership campaign.

The President has also sought to address the nation’s mental health safety-net, by clarifying the scope of mental health services available under Medicaid; completing mental health parity regulations to ensure the availability of affordable and sufficient mental health services; and starting a national dialogue on mental health.

Finally, he has announced that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will lead a national dialogue on how all Americans can work to reduce the incidence of gun violence.

Meanwhile, here in New Jersey, Governor Christie’s NJ SAFE Task Force promises a comprehensive review of “the intersection of gun control, addiction, mental health and school safety.” The report is due this month. Let’s hope it leads to safer schools, safer streets and better lives for all the children of our Garden State


Editorial from New Jersey Municipalities, Volume 90, Number 3, March 2013

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