Democratic Senator Jeff Van Drew Strays From Party Position on Gun Control

NJ Spotlight News | May 30, 2013 | Politics

The state Senate today passed 10 gun control measures. The bill passed by a mostly party-line vote of 23-17, with most Democrats in favor and all Republicans opposed. Only one Democrat, state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, from Cape May County, voted against it.

Van Drew told NJ Today Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor that he votes in a manner that reflects what he believes to be right, which isn’t always the party line.

“I tend to be very independent in the way that I vote and I’m gonna continue to do that,” said Van Drew.

While he expresses admiration for Senate President Steve Sweeney’s efforts to balance both sides of the gun control debate, Van Drew asserted his belief in the Second Amendment.

“I think it dates back to the founding of this country and I believe that the folks who legally own guns are genuinely and honestly are good and gentle, law-abiding citizens that aren’t bothering anybody, he said”

New Jersey has the second toughest gun safety laws in the country, and Van Drew says the solution to gun violence is not more laws.

“I believe that the issue is multifaceted,” he said. “The problems are — losing the drug war and gangs in the inner cities, mental health issues and lack of family structure everywhere.”

He added that a review of states with more gun regulations did not translate to less crime, and that any new laws would not affect criminal behavior.

“Those folks that would break the law, they’re not worried about permits, they’re not worried about registering, they’re not worried about doing the right thing,” Van Drew argued. “These laws will only affect those who are already doing the right thing, those who are already just sportsman or competitors or hunters or collectors.”

Van Drew says he believes that the majority of his constituents support his position. While recognizing the polarizing nature of the issue, he says leadership means standing up for what one believes is the right thing to do.

“The day that I can’t do that anymore is the day I don’t want to be in the legislature, it’s the day I don’t want to be senator,” said Van Drew. “I understand the goal of the folks that want more regulation is good but the reality is that the gang bangers and the law breakers aren’t worried whether it’s one gun a month, they’re not worried whether there is a different system for registering, they’re not going to register, they’re not getting their guns that way. They’re getting them illegally.”

Switching to another divisive topic, Van Drew was asked about his concerns over Sen. Barbara Buono’s choice of Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell to become the next chairman of the state Democratic party.

“It’s no criticism of him as an individual and it’s certainly no criticism of Sen. Buono, but I believe it’s so important as we move forward if you truly want to bring everyone together that you have someone that can bring consensus,” Van Drew said. “I believe a little bit, at least for now, Assemblyman O’Donnell tends to be something of a lightning rod and tends to be an individual that people feel strongly about on both sides of various issues that have occurred over the years in the Assembly and in the Senate and with the governor. So I just believe that we would all be better served if we had somebody we could all gather around.”