A new Quinnipiac poll shows that most New Jerseyans want more gun control, finding that 58 percent of registered voters want stricter limits on guns and ammunition. In the meantime, Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-20) is sponsoring a bill to declare violence a public health crisis. Lesniak tells NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that legislators need to take action on gun control while the recent tragedy of Newtown is still vivid in the public’s mind.
Lesniak points out that the problem of guns is not limited to the massacres in the schools, movie theaters and shopping malls. He says gun-related tragedies are happening every day in neighborhoods throughout the country, including his own.
“Guns are obviously the biggest problem in terms of how killings occur, but just eliminating the guns, which I’m not proposing to do, is certainly not going to solve the problem. However, we certainly should eliminate the assault weapons, the huge clips and the armor piercing bullets,” said Lesniak.
New Jersey already has an assault weapons ban. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced a bill in the U.S. Senate today to restore the federal ban on assault weapons.
“The biggest tragedies are obviously these assault weapons,” said Lesniak. “I was in the army [and] they made it very clear that what I was carrying was a weapon to kill people, it had no other purpose.”
Legislation, he says, needs to go beyond gun control and address funding programs that treat mental illness. In New Jersey, he says “we have an involuntary commitment supervised outpatient commitment program started by [former] Gov. [Richard] Codey that hasn’t been funded the past few years by Gov. Christie.”
“That’s why we need the declaration that it’s a public health crisis. We can get the Centers for Disease Control promoting these programs. We have a mental health court in Union County that needs to be expanded.”
PolitickerNJ is reporting that Sen. Richard Codey has the support of the AFL-CIO and AFSCME, should he decide to enter the governor’s race. He has yet to announce his decision, which many expect to come any day now.
Lesniak has been vocal in support of Codey as a possible candidate and has even referred to him as the Democratic party’s Obi-wan Kenobi. The Star Wars metaphor and his continued support of Codey as a gubernatorial candidate speaks loudly about his faith in Sen. Barbara Buono (D-18), the only declared Democratic candidate.
“She could pick up all the support, God bless her, but Dick Codey I believe will make a much stronger candidate. He has a proven record,” he said.
Still, Lesniak won’t make any predictions about what Codey will decide to do, saying “he has to speak to his wife and his son and I hope he makes the decision to run, that’s for sure.”