Gun Control Group Presses Congress

By John Celock

A national gun control group is pressing members of Congress and governors to adopt new background check laws, with New Jersey’s congressional delegation being lobbied in their home offices.

The New Jersey chapter of Moms Demand Action launched their congressional push Tuesday, delivering over 3,000 postcards to the Westfield district office of U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.) urging the background checks. The group plans to distribute postcards to the Morristown office of Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) on Wednesday and the Newton office of Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) on Monday. The cards are urging the passage of stricter gun control laws in the wake of a series of shooting incidents, including one in Santa Barbara, Cal. in May.

“We know measures like background checks can protect Americans and Congress has failed,” Mandi Perlmutter, the New Jersey coordinator of Moms Demand Action told The Celock Report.

Perlmutter said that the group has signed up 625,000 people around the country to send the postcards to their members of Congress, U.S. senators and governors. She said that the group is primarily focused on federal officeholders at the moment but did want to include governors as part of this. She did not say if plans are in the works to have a similar postcard effort for state legislators.

Perlmutter and a small group met with a Lance aide to present the postcards and to discuss gun control issues with him. She said the meeting was a positive experience for both sides.

Mitch Slater, a member of the Westfield Board of Education, who was part of the group, said that Lance’s aide had expressed interest in the amount of postcards being presented to the congressman. Slater was not representing the Board of Education or school system at the event.

Slater told The Celock Report that he hopes more residents attend a town hall meeting Lance is planning in Mountainside for Wednesday to express their support for gun control measures. He said he is not pleased with Lance or House Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), on the gun control issue.

“Lance has proven time and time again that he is a friend of the NRA and not a friend of the anti gun lobby,” Slater said.

Lance’s chief of staff, Todd Mitchell, took issue with Slater’s characterization of the congressman, noting that Lance has been leading on several gun control issues in Washington. Among these are being one of 76 Republicans to co-sponsor an amendment to boost funding for the FBI background check program, which Mitchell said would reduce gun sales to criminals and the mentally ill. Mitchell said that Lance, the vice chairman of the Health Subcommittee, has also been working on increasing services to the mentally ill.

“And he is one of the leading advocates in the House of Representatives on legislation aimed at expanding and improving access to mental health services at community clinics around the country so that we can better identify and treat those at risk of violent behavior,” Mitchell told The Celock Report.

Slater has been a vocal anti-gun advocate including pressing Westfield Mayor Andy Skibitsky (R) to join Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the gun control advocacy group founded by former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg (I) and former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino (D). Skibitsky has not joined the group. Other New Jersey mayors including Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop (D), Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr (D), Roselle Mayor Jamel Holley (D) and former Jersey City Mayor Jerry Healy (D) belong to the group. Mahr and Holley have helped lead the group in Union County, which includes Westfield.

Perlmutter told The Celock Report that she hopes gun control legislation can be voted on by the U.S. Senate this year. She said the group is focused on this year’s midterm elections for a long-term legislative goal.

“We need to make our message loud and clear and the midterm elections will be very important,” she said.