By David Cruz
Some of New Jersey’s leading lawmakers and activists gathered in Elizabeth today, thousands of miles from the recent massacres in Wisconsin and Colorado, but determined to show that we’re all in danger if America doesn’t do something about guns.
With 6,000 rounds of ammunition as a powerful prop nearby, that’s the amount allegedly purchased on line by the Colorado gunman last month, Senators Menendez and Lautenberg stood on the steps of city hall on National Night Out to challenge not only what they see as lax gun laws but also to challenge the charge by some, including Gov. Christie, that they’re taking advantage of high profile shootings to grandstand.
“When is it time to take up an issue like this,” asked Lautenberg, challenging the governor, “when it’s a little bit into the background, and we’re not talking about it, or at the moment in time when people are saying ‘My God, what else do we have to do in this country of ours to protect ourselves.’”
What the senator is talking about is a set of bills he’s put forward to put stricter controls on the sale of ammo on-line and to restrict sales of high capacity gun clips. Menendez said while New Jersey has some of the nation’s toughest gun laws, other states along the I-95 corridor have some of the most lax. The result? A flood of gun imports to the Garden State in 2011.
“Thirty-four were from Delaware, 170 from Virginia, 196 from North Carolina, 122 from South Carolina, 104 from Florida, 145 from Georgia. That’s 771 guns,” he said. “Thirty-three percent of the total guns used in New Jersey crimes were from the I-95 corridor.”
When we visited the Newark field division of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms earlier this year, we got a first-hand look at just some of the powerful weapons they’ve confiscated from New Jersey street crimes. Matthew Horace is the special agent in charge. He says gun runners come in all shapes and sizes.
“Violent drug gangs, outlaw motorcycle organizations, people who just see an area of profit, an individual, a couple of individuals,” he said. ”We’ve even seen college students. We’ve seen neighborhood crews; again, it’s a greed thing. It’s money.”
Albert Sangster lost his nephew to gun violence just last year. He watched today’s press conference with equal parts disdain and hope.
“It’s like they’re wasting their time,” he said, shrugging. “They’re doing all this talking but no action. You’ve got to put some action behind that talk.”
The elected officials here didn’t want to be accused of grandstanding, but with Congress on vacation and an election year approaching, it is unlikely that any of this legislation will even get a hearing. Meanwhile, in cities like Camden and Newark, the killing continues, unabated.