This past weekend, Patch contributor Robert V. Tessaro was invited to speak at the One Million Moms for Gun Control rally in Jersey City. According to Tessaro, hundreds of mothers, fathers, and residents from across the Garden State braved the frigid cold weather to send a strong message to Trenton and Washington, D.C. that they demand action to end gun violence.
Similar rallies were held across the country, with the largest on the National Mall in Washington attended by Assemblywoman Connie Wagner. Also speaking at the Jersey City event were U.S. Congressman Frank Pallone, Former Governor Jim Florio, State Senators Loretta Weinberg, Bob Gordon, Barbara Buono, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, and Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healey.
Tessaro said that the presenters talked about their personal connection to gun violence, including Speaker Oliver who told a poignant story about a family member who was shot and killed. Other speakers discussed gun control legislation they are proposing or supporting, but the overall theme was that inaction is no longer an option. Several people in the crowd had been impacted directly by gun violence, but others were touched by what happened in Newtown, Connecticut, and have had enough.
The following is the text of the speech he gave Saturday:
My name is Robert Tessaro and I am a Dad who demands action on gun violence.
I would like to thank Mayor Healy for that warm introduction. I have had the privilege of working with Mayor Healy and his esteemed Police Chief Tom Comey to address gun violence. Both the Mayor and Chief Comey have been tireless in their efforts to support common sense gun laws both here in New Jersey and in Washington, D.C.
Chief Comey stood with a group of law enforcement leaders on the steps of the United States Capital not long ago demanding that our law makers do more to address gun violence and give them the tools to stop it. I was honored several years ago to present Chief Comey the James Brady Law Enforcement Award at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence’s annual awards gala. Chief Comey and Mayor Healy, thank you for all that you do.
What the mayor and chief recognize with their work on this issue is that gun violence has to be addressed nationally, not just on the local or state level. New Jersey has some of the toughest gun control laws in the country, and as a result, we have one of the lowest rates of gun deaths in the country. But we still have an unacceptable amount of gun crime.
Chief Comey can tell you that the vast majority of firearms recovered at crime scenes here in Jersey City are from out of state where their lax laws are facilitating gun trafficking. Many states to our south and west like Pennsylvania, Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia allow you to buy an AR-15 assault rifle, or just about any other type of firearm at a gun show for cash with no background check, and no questions asked.
In 2011, of the nearly 3,400 guns recovered at crime scenes in New Jersey that were traced back to where they were purchased, only 432 were purchased in state. 87 percent of the guns recovered at New Jersey crime scenes in 2011 came from somewhere else.
Guess which states sold the most crime guns that were recovered in New Jersey? Pennsylvania, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. It is an iron pipeline of guns that runs up I-95 into our backyards.
We are only beginning to learn more about how guns are trafficked because until recently it was illegal for law enforcement departments to share data. That’s right, at the behest of the NRA, Congress passed a law that prevented the sharing of information between departments on gun trafficking. Thanks to Chief Comey and other outspoken police chiefs and mayors, some of these restrictions have been lifted so we can start identifying the route of illegal guns and putting a stop to them.
Now, we have elected officials that have led the charge on this issue in Washington, starting with Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez and Rep. Frank Pallone who have been champions of sensible gun laws for decades. All of you need to encourage your representatives that they have your support. But we can’t stop there. We need to let the lawmakers from every state know that their votes impact all of us.
While I was in Washington, I had the opportunity to meet with lawmakers on the issue of gun violence. I met with one Congressman from a southern state to discuss universal background checks, and the need to close loopholes in the law that allows criminals, domestic abusers, and the dangerously mentally ill from easily getting firearms. He told me, “between these four walls I support what you are saying, but I got an A rating from the NRA last year, and I need an A+ to get reelected.” We need to make it clear, that our lawmakers should be more concerned about an “F” from us, than an “A” from the gun lobby.
Last year I met with President Barack Obama at the White House with my good friends Jim and Sarah Brady. While we were discussing the difficulties of passing gun control laws in a bipartisan congress, Jim reminded the President that he was Ronald Reagan’s Press Secretary, and both he and President Reagan, icons of the Republican Party, strongly supported the 1994 assault weapon ban. This is not a liberal or conservative issue, it is a public safety issue and we need democrats, republicans, and independents to come together to support common sense gun laws. Because a bullet does not ask what your party affiliation is.
I spoke with Sarah Brady yesterday, and she asked me to extend her most sincere thanks to all of the moms here in New Jersey and around the country for standing up for this cause.
Since the tragedy in Newtown, more than 1,300 of our fellow Americans have been murdered with a gun. That includes 20 more innocent young children and 64 teenagers. 2,279 Americans committed suicide with a gun, and nearly 7,000 were shot and injured. That is 33 murders, 53 suicides, and 162 shot and injured every single day in America. Last year, more preschoolers were shot and killed than police officers in the line of duty.
It is easy to think of these as just statistics, but these are husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and all too often, children. Gun violence is not going away, and neither should our outrage. The time is now. Stand up, be heard, and let everyone know that we are going to fight fiercely to protect our communities.
Robert V. Tessaro is a Fort Lee High School graduate, formerly of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and now the president and founder of Safe School Technologies.