With a House vote looming on an NRA-backed bill to allow gun owners to carry concealed weapons across state lines, Mayor Tim Dougherty joined women’s organizations at Morristown town hall on Wednesday to urge Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.) to vote no.
“There comes a time where our elected officials have to stand up for what’s right, and not what a special interest group wants to pass,” said Dougherty, calling HR 38 “disastrous for the state.
“It’s bad for the country, in my eyes, and I believe it’s really bad for New Jersey, and for law enforcement,” he said, likening America to the Wild West. “It seems like we’re going backwards and not going forwards.”
The gathering was among several organized across the country by former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords–who survived a 2011 shooting–and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly.
On its website, the National Rifle Association on Monday exhorted supporters to press legislators to support HR 38, which Republicans attached to a bipartisan measure to tighten federal background checks in the wake of last month’s massacre of 25 Texas churchgoers and the October shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 dead and wounded hundreds.
“Your fundamental right to keep and bear arms should not end at the state line. This bill would ensure that law-abiding citizens do not lose the ability to protect themselves when they travel from state to state. And it would ensure that anti-gun jurisdictions do not harass travelers for exercising their constitutional rights,” the NRA stated.
But representatives of groups comprising the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence said HR 38 would enable gun owners from states with weak requirements to carry weapons into the Garden State, where laws are more stringent.
They pointed to West Virginia where, unlike New Jersey, anyone 21 or older can carry a concealed weapon without a background check, permit or firearms training. Nor can a violent person be denied permission for concealed carry in that state, absent any convictions or protective orders, according to Giffords’ organization.
“Instead of elevating our protections for domestic violence victims, passing the HR 38 Conceal Carry Reciprocity Act would bring us down to the lowest standards in the country,” said Regina Braham, vice president of the New Jersey Battered Women’s Service Inc.
Domestic violence accounts for more than half of all Morris County murders, and more than 80 percent of those since 2010 were committed with a gun, she said.
In a statement, state Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37th Dist.) called HR 38 “appalling…absolutely reprehensible” and posing “severe public safety consequences” for New Jersey.
Organizations at Morristown included the Essex chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women, Mom’s Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, the National Organization for Women and NJ 11th for Change.
Frelinghuysen’s office did not respond to a request for comment.