Gottheimer Demands Action to Keep Kids Safe in Schools from Gun Violence

Sep 06, 2019
Press

Gottheimer stands with Moms Demand Action to call for common sense gun safety measures

Above: Gottheimer stands with Moms Demand Action and local North Jersey leaders to demand action to keep our children safe from gun violence in schools.

Today, Friday, September 5, 2019, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) called for action to protect North Jersey children from gun violence as students head back to a new school year. Gottheimer stood with Bergen County’s Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, as well as local Fair Lawn and Bergen County leaders, to call on Congress to get to work on gun and school safety legislation to implement red flag laws, ban military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines, and institute commercial background checks.

“I’m sick and tired of having to wage this fight against gun violence, year in and year out, when so many of the potential solutions are sitting right in front of us. I’m sick and tired of seeing the alerts come across my phone about yet another mass shooting – thirty-eight this year alone. I’m sick and tired that my two young children and yours have to start their school year with active shooter drills,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “We are here this morning because the number of Americans, like us, who are sick and tired of inaction has hit a tipping point – the time for real action is now. That’s why we’re here. Because it’s time for the light to overcome the darkness.”

Gottheimer continued, “The best way we can keep our children safe is to finally pass legislation to help keep guns out of the hands of those who would come through the school house doors with an arsenal of weapons fit for war. This shouldn’t be so hard. It’s a bipartisan issue. To do that, we need real background checks for every single commercial transaction, universally, including at gun shows, so that no criminal, gang member, terrorist, or individual with a mental illness can brandish a lethal weapon.”

Gottheimer called today for the Senate to finally bring two important safety measures to the floor that the House sent over 190 days ago: H.R. 8, which requires a background check on every gun sale or transfer; and H.R. 1112, which closes the Charleston Loophole that allows a firearm sale to proceed even if the FBI has not yet completed a background check.

Gottheimer recently announced the bipartisan ALYSSA Act — the Alyssa’s Legacy Youth in Schools Safety Act, named after Fifth District native and Parkland victim Alyssa Alhadeff, which will bring New Jersey’s state Alyssa’s Law to the national level by requiring all public schools to install silent panic alarms connected to local law enforcement. Gottheimer’s ALYSSA Act will also ensure every school has access to School Resource Officers, so schools have a well-trained first responder on already on campus in the event of a critical incident.

Standing with Gottheimer today was Larisa Mendez Downes, Bergen County Co-Lead of Moms Demand Action; Fair Lawn Mayor Kurt Peluso; Fair Lawn Deputy Mayor Gail Rottenstrich; New Jersey Assemblywoman Lisa Swain (LD-38); Bergen County Sheriff Anthony Cureton; Bergen County Freeholder Vice Chairwoman Mary J. Amoroso; Bergen County Education Association President Sue McBride; Fair Lawn Public Schools Superintendent Nick Norcia; and and the Fair Lawn Board of Education.

“Common-sense and evidence-based solutions are key to solving the gun violence crisis in America. Passing background checks on all gun sales, a strong Red Flag law, and responsible storage and child access prevention measures are critical pieces of the puzzle in keeping our kids safe at schools and throughout our communities,” said Larisa Mendez Downes, Bergen County Co-Lead of Moms Demand Action. “One of our legislators, who has worked hard to ensure that we continue the conversation on gun violence prevention — our congressman, Josh Gottheimer.”

“At the state level we have championed common sense gun safety legislation to keep our school children and residents safe in New Jersey,” said Assemblywoman Lisa Swain and Assemblyman Chris Tully. “This week the vital red flag law takes effect and we are proud to have sponsored a law that helps fight straw purchasing and gun trafficking. As legislators it is our moral obligation to stand up against the scourge of gun violence in our society and New Jersey will continue to be a national leader in this effort.”

“The safety and security of our children is the top priority for Bergen County law enforcement. That is why it is imperative for county and local departments to always be prepared by having the necessary tools to help prevent, and ultimately respond in the event of a worst-case scenario,” said Bergen County Sheriff Anthony Cureton. “Since taking office, Congressman Gottheimer has worked tirelessly to bring more money back for law enforcement and has been a strong advocate for common-sense gun safety legislation. I thank him for his commitment on these issues and look forward to continue working together to keep our children safe.”

Below: “With so many lives violently cut short, we are demanding action. With the Senate sitting on bipartisan legislation widely supported by the American people, we are demanding action. With our children returning back to school, we are demanding action,” Gottheimer said today, alongside Moms Demand Action and local Fair Lawn and Bergen County leaders.

Video of the announcement can be found here.

Gottheimer’s full remarks as prepared for delivery are below.

Thank you, Mayor, for having us here in Fair Lawn and for your continued leadership, to Moms Demand Action for your tireless fight for our families, to the Sheriff for always reminding us that law enforcement in our state believes in our strong laws, to our Assemblywoman and Assemblyman for always standing up for us in Trenton, to Freeholder Vice Chairwoman Amoroso for the important work you and our Freeholders do for Bergen, to our superintendent, the Board of Education, and all our educators, thank you for your passion and commitment to preparing the next generation, even in these turbulent times. 

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of having to wage this fight against gun violence, year in and year out, when so many of the potential solutions are sitting right in front of us. I’m sick and tired of seeing the alerts come across my phone about yet another mass shooting – thirty-eight this year alone. I’m sick and tired that my two young children and yours have to start their school year with active shooter drills. I’m sick and tired that I have to look parents like the Alhadeffs in the eye and know that no matter what we do, we can’t bring their beautiful daughter Alyssa back.  I’m sick and tired of having to explain to moms and dads, here in the greatest country in the world, that, despite what seems like an obvious solution for an epidemic, I know that very powerful interest groups will do everything they can to try and hold progress hostage.

Yet, they’ve succeeded, year after year. That must end now. I remember Columbine like it was yesterday, and the images of those young children, bloody, hanging from the windows of that school. Fifteen lives taken. I was sure then that we would close the gun show loophole, and take other necessary steps. We haven’t, 20 years later, as you know. But we also haven’t walked away from the fight. We’ve only strengthened. Republicans and Democrats, from big cities to small rural towns – all across my district. And, of course, we’ve got Moms Demand Action and so many others.  And as painful as it has been for all those children and family members we’ve lost, we know, as it’s said in Scripture, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” [John 1:5]

We are here this morning because the number of Americans, like us, who are sick and tired of inaction has hit a tipping point – the time for real action is now, and we won’t go away until the active shooter drills are a memory of the distant past.  That’s why we’re here. Because it’s time for the light to overcome the darkness.  The best way we can keep our children safe is to finally pass legislation to help keep guns out of the hands of those who would come through the school house doors with an arsenal of weapons fit for war. To do that, we need real background checks for every single commercial transaction, universally, including at gun shows, so that no criminal, gang member, terrorist, or individual with a mental illness can brandish a lethal weapon.

We will be back in Washington early next week, and we need to get to work in the Judiciary Committee on a new package of gun and school safety legislation – on red flags, high capacity magazines, and hate crimes. That’s the least we can do. What we also need is for Senator Mitch McConnell to bring background check legislation — that I co-sponsored and that we sent to the Senate 191 days ago — for a debate and a vote on the Senate floor. 

This shouldn’t be so hard. It’s a bipartisan issue. Ninety percent of Americans agree we need them, including many of my friends in law enforcement right here in my District.

This is legislation that might well have stopped the mass shooting in Odessa, Texas, just a week ago – where the gunmen had previously failed a background check when trying to purchase a gun. He obtained the AR-15 style assault rifle through a private sale with no background check.

And many agree that we need real red flag legislation to prevent people who are domestic abusers or those with mental illness from having a weapon.  Many of my Republican colleagues also agree that the average American, or sportsman, or sportswoman, doesn’t need a military-grade assault rifle to hunt or protect himself or herself – or a high-capacity drum with more than a hundred rounds.  If you can’t wait a few days to pass a simple background check, you shouldn’t have a gun.

My colleague from Florida, Brian Mast, a Republican veteran who lost both his legs in Afghanistan, and who voted this year for background check legislation, said it best, and I quote, “I know that my community, our schools and public gathering places are not made safer by any person having access to the best killing tool the Army could put in my hands. I cannot support the primary weapon I used to defend our people being used to kill children I swore to defend.”

I couldn’t agree more. We saw fifty-three people killed in mass shootings in August alone, including twenty-two in El Paso and ten in Dayton. Fifty-three lives tragically cut short in just one month. And, overall, we’ve had at least 38 mass shootings occur throughout the entire country so far this year.  Unfortunately, far too often, from Columbine to Parkland, these shootings occur in our schools, the one place outside their home where our children should feel safest. 

By July of this year, there were already twenty-two shootings in American schools where someone was either killed or injured.

As our children return to the classroom for a new school year, it’s time we doubled down on this fight in the halls of Congress, put aside the partisan name calling, and actually got this done. Enough excuses; it’s time to act. No more fake arguments about why we can’t protect our schools, malls, and nights clubs from yet another deranged killer, racist, white supremacist, or lone wolf terrorist who wants to destroy another family

Last year, after the tragedy in Parkland, the Problem Solvers Caucus, which I co-chair, came together across party lines, and helped pass bipartisan legislation that provided more resources for school safety, including more investment for training in our schools, to support mental health and to increase coordination among law enforcement agencies.

This was a positive step in the right direction, but it’s far from everything we have to accomplish for our kids.

Instead, we have teachers trying to determine where and how exactly they will hide all of their students in classrooms during a shooting, and young children, as early as elementary school, being trained in how to diffuse an active shooter situation, in between math and science class. Just last week, I read about a Colorado K-12 school that’s teaching its students how to physically tackle an active shooter. These are not the options we should be giving our children. We can and we must do better.

Next week, the House Judiciary Committee will be considering three bills, of which I am proud to cosponsor.

H.R. 1186, the Keep Americans Safe Act will ban high capacity magazines like the ones used last month.  H.R. 1236, the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act of 2019, will help states implement red flag laws to prevent those deemed a risk to themselves or others from accessing firearms. This is particularly important to note because data from the Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Education found that in 93 percent of the cases of school violence they examined, there were behavioral warning signs that caused others to be concerned.  The final bill, H.R. 2708, the Disarm Hate Act, will prohibit dangerous individuals who have been convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes from possessing firearms.

We also need to address the safety of our schools from all angles, which is why I recently announced the bipartisan ALYSSA Act — the Alyssa’s Legacy Youth in Schools Safety Act, named after Parkland victim Alyssa Alhadeff, whose family hails from right here in the Fifth District.

Earlier this year, in February, New Jersey signed legislation into law requiring all New Jersey public schools to install silent panic alarms that can be utilized in an active-shooter situation, like in Parkland.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t a silent alarm in Parkland. Only twenty-seven percent of our schools have silent alarms installed that would immediately notify the police of an active shooter.

The ALYSSA Act will bring the same requirements enshrined in New Jersey’s Alyssa’s Law to all public schools nationwide. That’s more than 98,000 public schools. The bipartisan legislation will also ensure that every school has access to School Resource Officers, or SROs, so that schools have a first responder already there, on the campus, in the event of a critical incident. These are well-trained current and former law enforcement officials, who the students get to know – and who get to know the students.  Evidence shows that SROs can significantly reduce levels of serious violent crimes, including shootings.

Aside from voting on H.R.8, which will finally enact universal background checks, I’m also calling on the Senate to finally act on closing the Charleston Loophole, which currently allows a firearm sale to proceed even if the FBI has not yet completed the background check. The shooter in the Charleston Massacre, Dylann Roof, bought his gun and killed nine people before the FBI had completed his background check. Right now, after this brutal summer, with so many lives violently cut short, we are demanding action.

With the Senate sitting on bipartisan legislation widely supported by the American people, we are demanding action.

In the face of an incredibly powerful lobby, we are demanding action.

When it seems like every day there’s coverage of another shooting in the news, we are demanding action.

With our children returning back to school, we are demanding action.

Together, with the House moving forward on multiple pieces of legislation, I know that we can come together, across party lines, and keep our children safe. We have to. They’re our future. We owe this to them.

Together, with the advocacy of Moms Demand Action, the bravery of our local law enforcement, our incredible educators, and with the safety of our children as our top priority, I know that the light will overcome the darkness – and, as ever, here in the greatest country in the world, our best days will always be ahead of us.

Thank you, God bless you and our children, and may God continue to bless and watch over the United States of America.

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