School Safety and Gun Control Concerns in Princeton - May 5, 2018 - huangmenders.com

March for Our Lives Rally in Princeton, March 24, 2018

Article by Daniel Farber Huang

May 5, 2018

PRINCETON, New Jersey – The Princeton Council unanimously approved a resolution calling on the New Jersey state legislature to approve the strongest gun control measures introduced in the state in nearly a decade at their April 9 meeting.

The resolution supports six pending gun control measures in front of the legislature that support laws that keep guns away from those who pose threats, reduce ammunition magazine capacity, enhance background checks, and ban armor-piercing ammunition.

School safety and gun control issues have been actively in focus around Princeton in recent weeks. In the last 3 months alone, several local incidents have raised attention on this on-going national issue. The following is a selected list of events in chronological order:

On February 6, a 25-year-old former student gained unauthorized entry into Princeton High School through an unlocked door and stayed inside for up to 45 minutes. According to a CentralJersey.com article, when police later interviewed the man, he appeared disoriented and was unable to explain why he had gone into the school. Additionally, to reach the school that morning, the man boarded a Cranbury school bus and rode undetected by the bus driver all the way to the high school. No weapons were found on him and the former student was not charged.

Princeton Police Lt. Chris Morgan said in the article, “It obviously creates a security issue. We’ve had conversations with the school bus company and the school as well.”

According to Princeton Councilman David Cohen, the Princeton Public School system has hired four part-time unarmed “building monitors” to help address security concerns at the high school, spurred at least partly in response to the Feb. 6 intruder incident.

On Feb. 14 in Parkland, Florida, a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School left 17 dead, sparking national attention on the issue of school safety and gun violence. The shooting also led to the formation of the March for Our Lives student movement.

On March 20 in Princeton, a 56-year-old man armed with a BB pistol was shot and killed by police after a 5-hour standoff at the Panera Bread café across the street from Princeton University. Scott Mielentz was killed after pointing the pistol directly at police, who were unable to distinguish the pistol as a BB gun. University students were on spring break at the time of the stand off. The incident is being investigated by the State Attorney General, which has released a video of the shooting.

March for Our Lives Rally in Princeton, March 24, 2018

On March 24, March for Our Lives protests occurred around the country, which were spurred by the Parkland, Florida school shooting. According to the organizer’s website, “March For Our Lives is created by, inspired by, and led by students across the country who will no longer risk their lives waiting for someone else to take action to stop the epidemic of mass school shootings that has become all too familiar.”

An estimated 5,000 people participated in the March 24 Princeton protest, according to Coalition for Peace Action Reverend Robert Moore who spoke at the event. The March for Our Lives rally was held in downtown Princeton, surrounded by the public library, high-end restaurants and retail stores.

Princeton’s March for Our Lives rally was organized by Princeton High School senior Dziyana Zubialevich with the help of Moms Demand Action, the League of Women’s Voters and the Coalition for Peace Action.

Speaking at the rally, Democratic Assemblyman Roy Freiman announced he would propose legislation to raise the minimum age to buy rifles and shot guns in New Jersey to 21 years old. Current N.J. law requires handgun purchasers to be at least 21 years old while the minimum age for long gun purchasers is 18.

“Do your job! Do your job!” an older man shouted angrily at Freiman during his speech.

Nine days later, on April 5, Freiman, along with Assemblymen Joseph Lagana and Andrew Zwicker, introduced Bill A3815, which increases the age a person is eligible to receive a firearms purchaser identification from 18 to 21. The bill is currently in review with the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said in an official statement about the March 24 rally, “The next generation showed that they will not sit quietly, and that they are ready to lead. Their activism inspires me and reaffirms my commitment to making New Jersey a national leader in passing commonsense gun safety laws.”

After the march, Princeton high school senior Zubialevich said through Facebook messenger, “I think the main goal right now is to keep the momentum from the march alive. It’s very easy for people to go back to being apathetic or not as involved, but I’ve been in contact with a lot of different organizations to discuss future projects.

“I’m hoping to find a group of high school seniors in the area going to college next year to discuss future activism and how to be a student leader in college.”

NJ Governor Phil Murphy Talks with Patrons at Small World Coffee Shop, Princeton, Jan. 19, 2018

The six gun control bills that the Princeton Council support would represent the strongest measures introduced in New Jersey in nearly a decade. These bills include:

Senate Bill 160 provides for removal of firearms from individuals deemed at risk for harming themselves or others by reason of mental health disorders as determined by qualified and certified mental health professionals.

Senate Bill 795 provides for issuance of gun violence restraining orders and removal of firearms from individuals deemed at risk for harming themselves or others as determined by the New Jersey court system.

Senate Bill 2376 further limits the criteria for issuance of concealed carry permits beyond the limitations currently imposed under New Jersey law.

Senate Bill 2374 requires a background check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check before the sale or transfer of handguns, rifles, or shotgun.

Senate Bill 2245 prohibits the possession of ammunition capable of penetrating body armor, while making the possession of such ammunition a crime of the fourth degree.

Senate Bill 102 bans civilian firearm magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, limiting magazines capable of holding up to 15 rounds which are currently legal in New Jersey.

After the unanimous vote, the Princeton Council resolution was sent to Governor Phil Murphy and Senate President Steve Sweeney.

Most recently, on April 20, students at Princeton High School participated in a school walkout to demand school safety along with other students across the country. April 20 was the 19th anniversary of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colorado, where two students shot and killed 13 people and injured more than 20 others before turning their guns on themselves and committing suicide. At the time, Columbine was the worst high school shooting in U.S. history.

When asked about the Princeton walkout, Princeton Police Commissioner and Councilwoman Heather Howard said, “I have been so impressed with their energy and focus”.

Howard was recently appointed by Governor Murphy to represent New Jersey on a multi-state consortium studying gun violence as a public health issue.

Princeton Chief of Police Nicholas Sutter said, “School safety has been a priority for us even prior to the March [for Our Lives]. I think the March served to bring more attention to the issue but from our perspective it has been a priority for a very long time.”

Princeton Public Schools Superintendent Steve Cochrane did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

According to the Center for Disease Control, New Jersey had the fifth lowest firearm death rate in the country in 2016, the most recent year https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/sosmap/firearm_mortality/firearm.htmdata was published, with 5.5 people out of 100,000 killed by a firearm, compared to the U.S. average of 11.8 deaths per 100,000 people.

That same year, Alaska, Alabama and Louisiana had the highest firearm death rates ranging from 23.3 to 21.3 deaths per 100,000. Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York had the lowest rates, ranging from 3.4 to 4.4 deaths per 100,000 people.

March for Our Lives Rally in Princeton, March 24, 2018.

Most recently, on April 20, students at Princeton High School participated in a school walkout to demand school safety along with other students across the country. April 20 was the 19th anniversary of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colorado, where two students shot and killed 13 people and injured more than 20 others before turning their guns on themselves and committing suicide. At the time, Columbine was the worst high school shooting in U.S. history.

When asked about the Princeton walkout, Princeton Police Commissioner and Councilwoman Heather Howard said, “I have been so impressed with their energy and focus”.

Howard was recently appointed by Governor Murphy to represent New Jersey on a multi-state consortium studying gun violence as a public health issue.

Princeton Chief of Police Nicholas Sutter said, “School safety has been a priority for us even prior to the March [for Our Lives]. I think the March served to bring more attention to the issue but from our perspective it has been a priority for a very long time.”

Princeton Public Schools Superintendent Steve Cochrane did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

According to the Center for Disease Control, New Jersey had the fifth lowest firearm death rate in the country in 2016, the most recent year data was published, with 5.5 people out of 100,000 killed by a firearm, compared to the U.S. average of 11.8 deaths per 100,000 people. That same year, Alaska, Alabama and Louisiana had the highest firearm death rates ranging from 23.3 to 21.3 deaths per 100,000. Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York had the lowest rates, ranging from 3.4 to 4.4 deaths per 100,000 people.

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