TRENTON – Senator Raymond Lesniak issued the following statement on Monday on his legislation, S-2430, approved by the Senate with a vote of 22-10, that would declare violence a “public health crisis” and create a Study Commission on Violence:
“This legislation could be the most important bill I have ever sponsored. Violence is an epidemic in America. It is the single greatest threat to children growing up in our communities. Newtown, Connecticut; Aurora, Colorado; Tucson, Arizona; Fort Hood, Texas; Columbine, Colorado; Virginia Tech, Virginia; and Old Bridge, New Jersey should have been enough for a call to action.
“As President Obama has said, ‘Enough is enough.’ Enough was enough a long time ago. In New Jersey, there is one murder a day. Nationwide, the equivalent of 10,000 busloads of children end up in emergency rooms for violence-related injuries every year and more than 5,500 children are murdered every year. Enough is enough. We must change the culture of violence in our society.
“Back in 1979, the Surgeon General’s Report, ‘Healthy People’, emphasized that the health community must focus on the consequences of violent behavior on the health of children, adolescents and young adults. In 1985, the U.S. Department of Health reported that homicide is the major cause of the disparity in the deathrate experienced by African Americans and other minorities. In 1996, the World Health Assembly declared violence a leading worldwide public health problem.
“ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice. It’s up to us to change the culture of violence in our society and bend the moral arc of the universe towards justice by reducing violence in our society. Declaring violence a grave public health crisis in New Jersey is the first step towards that goal.
“In addition to declaring violence a grave public health crisis, this legislation establishes an ongoing Commission on Violence to develop a method to address the epidemic of violence and make recommendations for action, including the expansion to all counties of the special mental illness unit established in the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, and the expansion and adequate funding for community-based mental health treatment programs throughout the state.
“This legislation also urges Congress to ban assault weapons and to adopt universal background checks on all gun purchases. It also urges Congress to repeal the federal research ban on the causes of gun deaths. That’s right, the Federal Government has banned research into the study of gun deaths! How crazy is that?
“Enough is enough. We must change the culture of violence in our society. It won’t be done by reasonable and responsible gun control measures alone. The steps outlined in this legislation create a path towards changing the culture of violence in our society.”