TRENTON – The Office of the Attorney General released the final report of the New Jersey SAFE Task Force, created by Gov. Chris Christie and tasked with evaluating violence in New Jersey and its intersection with the issues of gun control, addiction, mental health and school safety.
The product of two months’ research, including well-attended public hearings in Camden, Lincroft and Newark, the Task Force Report to the Governor contains 50 recommendations for action. Each chapter of the report contains a detailed discussion that serves as a forerunner to specific recommendations.
Among other recommendations, the task force called upon the state to:
- Require courts to order people convicted of crimes or subject to involuntary commitment to surrender their firearms and firearms purchaser identification cards
- Authorize courts to order a person’s firearms to be seized following an arrest or initiation of civil commitment proceedings
- Require Firearms Purchaser Identification cards to include photos and be renewed periodically
- Increase penalties for gun owners who allow minors or people who have been disqualified from posessing firearms to have access to their weapons
- Require gun buyers to disclose whether they plan to transfer the weapon to another person or keep it for their own use to deter “straw purchases”
- Launch a public outreach campaign to de-stigmatize mental illness and create greater access to mental health and substance abuse treatment services
- Limit the ability of minors to purchase or rent video games with “Mature” or “Adults Only” video games
- Provide training for local law enforcement and school communities
- Implement a Suspicious Activity hotline to allow students to anonymously report tips about incidents of bullying, violence, assualts, or suicide threats
- Increase observation of school lockdown drills
Created by Executive Order of Governor Christie on Jan. 17, the Task Force consists of six members, and is chaired by two former New Jersey Attorneys General – Peter G. Verniero and John J. Degnan. Its membership was comprised of individuals with expertise in the fields of mental health diagnosis and treatment, addiction services and treatment, gun control and law enforcement, and school safety. That membership included: Dr. Manuel Guantez, CEO of Turning Point, Inc., which provides alcohol and drug addiction treatment; James Romer, Monmouth County Services Director at Monmouth Medical Center; Evelyn Sullivan, Managing Director at Daytop Village of NJ, a substance abuse treatment and education program and Dr. Brian Zychowski, Superintendent of North Brunswick Public Schools.
In addition to hosting three public hearings, the Task Force held regular meetings, met with representatives of State agencies and reviewed written submissions from the public, as well as professionals from such fields as law enforcement, corrections, education, parole, juvenile justice, mental health treatment and substance abuse counseling.
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