Bill To Address Violence As A Public Health Crisis Wins Legislative Approval

TRENTON – The Assembly approved legislation to to address violence as a public health crisis and establish a nine-member panel to study violence in the state, its causes and effects by a 49-25-4 vote on Monday, giving it final Legislative approval.

“From the streets of Newark to the neighborhoods of Trenton, violence has been unrelenting in these communities for decades,” said Assemblwoman Cleopatra Tucker (D-Essex). “It is time to begin addressing these acts as a prevalent epidemic of our communities and not just as random individual acts. There are reasons to why violence continues to persist and continue to worsen.

Bill sponsors cited three examples which represent a fraction of the violence that occurs nationally and in this State: (1) the December 14, 2012 incident at the Newtown Connecticut elementary school where 26 people were killed, including twenty children ages 6 and 7; (2) the August 31, 2012 incident at a New Jersey Pathmark in Old Bridge where an employee armed with an assault rifle and automatic pistol entered the store and killed two workers before taking his own life.; and (3) July 2012 in Aurora Colorado a man entered a crowded theater and opened fire, killing and wounding 59 others.

According to the most recent data available, in New Jersey alone, there are 372 murders per year and 74,244 domestic violence offenses reported by the police per year. Nationwide, since the shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in 2011, there have been more than 70 additional mass shootings.

The bill (A-3690) would declare violence as a public health crisis, recommend the expansion of mental health programs, recommend the expansion of mental health programs, recommend federal adoption of gun control measures, and establishes a Study Commission on Violence to study the trends of violence, the source of violence, and the impact of violence on the community, to develop a method to address the epidemic of violence at the federal and state level, and to make a recommendation for Congressional and State action.

In addition, the commission would seek our funding from sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and prevention and any other funding sources to implement programs to reduce violence.

The study commission would consist of nine members. To the greatest extent practical, the public members must have a background or education in mental health or criminology.

The measure passed the Senate 23-10 in May. It now heads to the Governor for further consideration.

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