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NJ Residents for Action Urges Community to Contact Elected Leaders

Group met Wednesday, Feb. 6.

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.

Or Contact:

Marci Bandelli mawse@comcast.net

Lori Bennet lksalzberg@gmail.com

Karen Egert karenegert@aol.com

David Glasker dghi45@verizon.net

Bill Gottdenker Munibill2@aol.com

Viviane Levy levyviviane@yahoo.com

Senator Leonard Lance:

908-518-7733 (Westfield Office)

202-225-5361 (D.C. Office)

Frank Lautenberg:

888-398-1642 (Newark Office)

202-224-3224 (D.C. Office)

Robert Menendez:

973-654-3030 (Newark Office)

202-224-4744 (D.C. Office)

Tom Kean:

908-232-3673

Website for email: www.tomkean.senatenj.com

Jon Bramnick:

908-232-3673

ARepOffice@njleg.org

Twitter: @NJAssembly

Nancy Munoz:

908-918-0414

Website for email: www.njkeg.state.nj.us/Selectrep.asp

Viviane Levy February 08, 2013 at 07:57 PM
Thank you for reporting this important meeting. Please note that as member of the committee , I would like to make a spelling correction to my email address, as my first name is spelled with "e" at the end: viviane levy - levyviviane@yahoo.com
Elizabeth Alterman (Editor) February 08, 2013 at 08:07 PM
Hi Viviane, thank you for bringing that to our attention. It's been amended. Thanks, Liz
karen egert February 09, 2013 at 02:20 AM
That is incorrect information that Todd Mitchell reported regarding the timing of when Lance met with us relative to when I asked. I requested a public meeting with him over six weeks ago , not ten days ago like Mitchell publicly stated. On December 18 I filled out a meeting request form they gave me and emailed it to Britanny Stromko in the Washington office . The form asked for three dates. I requested January 5, 12, and 19. Britanny and I then had several subsequent conversations in January regarding what the subject matter and the type of meeting I was requesting. We were talking about finding a date for the meeting. I believe it is only fair that Todd Mitchell corrects the record .
karen egert February 09, 2013 at 02:22 AM
The form I had to fill out had several categories to fill in: what organization it was , what type of meeting being requested , three possible dates , place of meeting and the subject matter of meeting . i filled out every section. Britanny and I had several pleasant conversation during January about the contents of the meeting and trying to find a date. Towards the end of January Britanny asked if Lance could meet with the core group privately first. I agreed , but there was never any mention that this was "in lieu" of a public town hall style meeting. So if Leonard Lance does not hold public meetings on particular subjects like Todd Mitchell said , then why is it required to fill out this section asking for “ Issues –Topics to be discussed” ? I will try to attach the form I filled out for the public to see. Karen Egert
karen egert February 09, 2013 at 04:38 AM
I take issue with Todd Mitchell's characterization of our desire to speak with the Congressman on this most crucial issue . To minimize our concerns and say there are other things to talk about besides guns , is quite frankly insulting . 20 six year olds were MURDERED IN THE SAFETY OF THEIR SCHOOL! This is ENOUGH . We are all traumatized by this and to somehow make excuses for the Congressman and imply thaf we are overdoing it or sonething like that, is highly inappropriate. It is an insult to the residents who are understandably and rightfully upset and concerned . I applaud all those residents in this town and district who have shown the COURAGE to speak up and stand up for what they believe and to do sonething POSITIVE . I find Mr. Mitchell's comments quire insensitive and out of step with the major sentiments of our Westfield community and our neighboring towns . We have members from Cranford. , Scotch Plains. ,FANWOOD , Berkely Heights , Rahway , Plaibfield , Garwood , Short Hills -- just to name a few towns . So it is a safe bet to say that people want to talk about this issue . And we NEED to adress it because it is tearing apart our country .
Devilsfan February 12, 2013 at 12:19 AM
Karen...What's your position on abortion??? How many kids are killed each day? How many did you save?
Bigger issues to worry about February 15, 2013 at 03:43 AM
What's tearing our country apart are people who yell like the sky is falling or fire in a crowded theater. Convicts and law breakers will not abide by any laws that you put on the books. If Karen wants to really help on gun control issues,she should talk to the Latin Kings and see if they will hand in their guns. Everyone agrees that this was a terrible tragedy, but a rational conversation needs to take place about the role of government, guns, laws, etc... NJ has the toughest gun laws in the country with detailed background checks. As a lawful gun owner and advocate (not a gun nut like Karen assumes about all legal gun owners), I find it frankly insulting that Karen lumps me into a group of people that don't care about the children. As a taxpaying citizen, I am more concerned about rampant deficit spending, increasing debt burdens, job growth and a group in Washington. Trenton, and Elizabeth that have spent my children's future on folly, war, and momunents to themselves.
c February 15, 2013 at 06:00 PM
As Paul Mulshine said in the Star Ledger regarding the NJ gun bills pending- This is designed to rally the Democrats for the November elections. The Democratic strategy is to put the popular Governor Christie on the spot by forcing him to either sign the bills or alienate the gun lobby. But before those bills can get to Christie, they have to get past Steve Sweeney. At the moment, the Senate president from South Jersey is more popular than the governor with many gun owners. That’s a real plus for any statewide ambitions he may hold. But when it comes to future ambitions, Christie’s could easily survive vetoing these bills. But could Sweeney’s ambitions survive if he passed this package? Maybe the Democrats have some brilliant strategy concerning guns here. But yesterday (at the Committee meeting) they gave every appearance of having formed a circular firing squad. The Anti-Anti Gun tide is rising in NJ with record numbers of permit applications (Old Bridge had 33 in one hour last week) with people who never intended or thought about getting a gun going out to get permits for purchase doing so because of the rise of lawlessness, and the rise of tyranny of the government.
c February 15, 2013 at 07:13 PM
What a shame. A vet recently returned to Obama's and Rahm's Chicago, the "gun free city" was murdered today by violence, holding his two year old son. He survived war but not Chicago, home of the strictest gun laws in the nation. The argument to get these strict gun laws here in NJ and throughout the country is severely misguided. Chicago is an abject failure. Open your eyes, people. How about the breakdown of the family, drugs, government sponsored poverty, media glorification of violence, mental illness? Lets work on that. This is the cause of the violence. I have an idea for NJ Residents for Action and the Mayors to reduce/against gun violence....Collect money from your supporters to bring the Plainfield, Elizabeth, Linden, etc. teens and their mothers to UCPAC's "Stop the Funeral" play in April. This was produced to create a sense of urgency to transform the mindset of teens fixated on violence, and leave the adults thinking about their responsibility they share in addressing the rising death toll that is destroying America's youth and is the prime cause of violence in NJ and America. Too scary for you? I thought so. This has a better shot at working than your idea. Forget contact elected officials to reduce gun violence, they will do what they need to do to get elected or keep their jobs.
karen egert February 24, 2013 at 02:32 AM
Dear Concerned Citizen . Although at first glance , I'd agree it seems paradoxical that there so many murders in Chicago when they have strict gun laws. However the reality is that all of these guns are purchased in Ohio which has very loose Gun laws . Gun shows Do not require a background check. That is why they go over to Ohio and buy the guns. This is why universal background checks is very important Thank you
karen egert February 24, 2013 at 02:36 AM
And just to clarify for some of the readers , I'm happy to say that NJ has for the most part very responsible laws surrounding gun safety legislation. My concern is that these types of laws are not in most states . I believe that the gun legislation in Nj Is working as NJ has the 4th lowest rate of gun murders in the country
karen egert February 24, 2013 at 02:40 AM
I think that some readers thjnk we are taking aim at responsible gun owners in NJ . Not at all We just feel that gun shows in other states should not be allowed to sell guns with absolutely no background check. Background checks help the law abiding gun owner as it prevents guns from being sold to people who shouldn't be owning a gun .
c February 24, 2013 at 01:05 PM
The rest of the country does not want the kind of senseless and draconian gun laws that NJ has (with the exception of liberal states such as NY, CA, MA, CONN, etc.) which will let a gun felon committing a violent crime such as a carjacking with an illegal weapon out of jail in 16 months with a plea bargain and throw the book at (7-10 years) a law abiding citizen with a locked and secured gun in his trunk that has not been registered in NJ as he is in the process of moving into NJ from another state.
c February 24, 2013 at 01:07 PM
It is not as simple as that. You need to do some research and come back to us with it.

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