Oroho, Space and Wirths respond to Parkland, too little, too late

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On March 9, 2018, citizens assembled outside the offices of LD 24 legislators Steve Oroho, Parker Space, and Hal Wirths. The event, organized by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, was in support of strict gun laws in New Jersey, with the knowledge that our elected legislators, with their A+ NRA ratings, consistently vote to weaken New Jersey’s efforts to curb gun violence.

One day later, on March 9, 2018, Oroho, Space, and Wirths, were moved to speak out for the first time about the tragic mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. Their focus, after a lot of needless grumbling about the political agenda of others (concerned constituents who don’t agree with them ​must​ have a political agenda after all), is now school safety. There we have it. As of March 9, 2018, our legislators are concerned with school safety and are proposing ways in which we can fortify our schools so that tragedies like Parkland don’t occur again. (The fact that Parkland was one of the most well-fortified schools in the nation doesn’t fit into their narrative.)

We can all agree that schools should absolutely be fortified and protected in order to keep our children safe, but we also need to understand that necessary funding must be provided to make those improvements. The legislative trio calls for all classrooms to have “security doors that are bulletproof and can be locked. We are not talking about wood doors, but doors used in places like bank counting rooms,” (see Oroho press release). What would be the estimated cost of this? Informed voters are well aware of our legislators’ repeated attempts to undermine our state’s school funding system, as well as their views of how New Jersey is already spending too much on education. Oroho, Space, and Wirths, self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives, please show us where the funding you think our children already ​don’t​ deserve will come for fortifying our schools!

Here is what you won’t hear our legislators address, even as they acknowledge in their statement that New Jersey has “some of the strictest laws concerning firearms in the nation.” ​It is no thanks to them​ .

Parker Space and Hal Wirths currently support National Concealed Carry Reciprocity. They even have sponsored their own resolution in the assembly (aptly titled NJ AR15) which memorializes CCR. This bill would allow the members of 49 other states who obtain concealed carry permits (many states require little or no training or safety courses to get a permit), to bring their concealed weapons into New Jersey, including ​into our school zones .​ Does that protect our children? Space has a long history of rejecting any common sense gun safety measures, like his infamous 80-2 vote on A4126 that “​enhances protections for domestic violence victims by restricting access to firearms by certain persons.”

Here are just some of the measures that our legislators could support in the assembly that would keep our children, and the people of New Jersey, safe. We can predict how they will vote.

A1217​-Authorizes gun violence restraining orders and firearm seizure warrants. A2757​-Closing Background Check Loopholes, requires privates sales of firearms to be processed through a dealer. Background check loopholes allow felons, domestic abusers, and the dangerously mentally ill to purchase firearms at guns shows and online without undergoing a background check. States that require background checks for all gun sales see dramatically lower death rates than states with these loopholes. A 1181​-Requires firearms seizure when mental health professional determines patient poses threat of harm to self or others.

As the parents of four daughters, my husband and I will not stand by and pat these legislators on the back, when to date they have done nothing to protect our children’s safety in schools. The truth is, our legislative team can’t even look at the root cause of the gun violence issue because of their NRA ties, but can only attempt to participate in fortifying our schools, and only now after pressure from outside groups. At the very same time, they are petitioning the Assembly that a member of any state with a concealed carry permit can walk on to the campus of our childrens’ schools with a firearm. It stands to reason that they support an out-of-state person’s right to carry a gun onto a New Jersey school campus ​over​ our childrens’ liberty to a safe school environment. These legislators are going through the motions of looking outwardly interested in our childrens’ welfare, but their real allegiance is to their pro-NRA voting base that they answer to above all. These are the true motivations of our legislators.

Kate Matteson

Sparta, NJ

(Editor's note: Matteson and Gina Trish were the unsuccessful Democratic challengers to Space and Wirths for District 24 seats in the state Assembly in the 2017 elections.)

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