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State Sen. Joseph Cryan (D-Cranford). (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Opinion: ‘We are long past ‘Thoughts and Prayers'”

By Senator Joseph P. Cryan, March 25 2021 9:48 am


Monday’s deadly shooting in Boulder, Colorado resulted in the murder of ten people, including a Boulder police officer, and was less than a week after a tragic mass shooting that claimed eight lives, including the apparent targeting of six Asian women.

According to the New York Times and a database compiled by the Violence Project, there have been at least 29 shootings with four or more fatalities in just the last five years alone.

“No matter the motive or location, whether it be a high school, a church, a synagogue, an office building, a bar, a nightclub, a newsroom, a movie theater, and entertainment district, a festival, or a gas station, these horrific tragedies impact us all.  Each time we are confronted with another of these horrific acts of violence we become more desensitized and our society as a whole becomes more dug in on ‘their side’ of the gun debate as if we were talking about cross-town rivals in a sporting event and not horrific mass shootings.

The truth is the only common denominator in these tragic losses of life is the accessibility of deadly firearms on seemingly every street and in every neighborhood across this country.

Ask yourself what it will take to dispute Senator Ted Cruz’s declaration of common-sense gun reforms to be “ridiculous theater” designed to “take away guns from law-abiding citizens” because of “political objective”.  Will it take your town to be on the national news for you to feel differently?  Will it take someone in your neighborhood, or even your family, to be impacted?

When I served as Union County Sheriff my objective in sponsoring a gun buyback program that took almost 1500 guns off the streets of our county was not an “assault on the Second Amendment” just as my sponsorship of legislation to establish a criminal penalty for purchasing firearm parts to illegally manufacture an untraceable firearm was not based on wanting to eliminate “the right of the people to keep and bear arms”.

Even as we are forced to bear witness to the horrors of gun violence with so many men, women and children continuing to be gunned down while simply living their lives, we have seemingly eliminated common-sense and common decency from the discussion.

I am not after your musket, but I do have a curiosity as to why a student or a banker or a farmer needs an AR-15.  I do not want to eliminate handguns, but I do think expanded background checks and a ban on assault-style firearms can be a strong deterrent to future mass shootings.

A hunter doesn’t need an assault weapon to hunt deer.  If someone is afraid of a stronger, expanded background check that extends the time the F.B.I. has to vet people flagged by the national instant check system before they can buy a gun then perhaps they shouldn’t have one?  And maybe we are all better off if they can’t get one.

I have stood at the front of the line in the call for common sense gun reform and I have worked to remove guns from our streets.  We are long past platitudes and ‘Thoughts and Prayers’ for victims and their families.  The only way to ensure we don’t keep coming back to this moment is through action.  The time for that action is now.”

Joseph Cryan, Democrat of Union, is serving his first term in the New Jersey State Senate.  He is a former Assembly Majority Leader, Democratic State Chairman, and Union County Sheriff.

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