By Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor
The issue of gun violence ignited passionate pleas from dozens of people who testified at a hearing in Newark at the Rutgers Law Center. Most in attendance were gun rights advocates who told members of the New Jersey Safe Task Force they don’t think stricter gun laws are the answer to curbing violence. “I don’t think the 43 bills that are currently in the legislature will do anything to keep violence from happening,” said Robert Villegas, of Scotch Plains. “The answer is mental health. The answer is keeping criminals locked up.”
But Donna Jackson, one of the few people from Newark who testified, believes gun rights advocates might have a different opinion if they lived in an urban area where violence is rampant. “Everyone is upset about the Newtown, Conn. shootings. I want you to be as upset about homicides in Newark, “said Jackson.
Another Newark resident, Viva White, believes the task force isn’t diverse enough. “That’s why we’re talking to all people … going to various parts of the state … so we’re hearing all views,” said Peter Verniero, Co-Chair of the New Jersey Safe Task Force.
Verniero is one of two former New Jersey Attorneys General on the task force convened by Gov. Chris Christie. It’s charged with taking a comprehensive look at a host of issues related to gun violence including addiction and mental health. The task force is expected to make its recommendations to the governor by the end of March.