NEWARK – Congressman Donald Payne Jr. wants to build on the momentum generated by last week’s 26-hour sit-in that he and other congresspeople held on the floor of the U.S. House of representatives. That sit-in was held in an attempt to force Republicans in congress to hold a vote on gun legislation aimed at beefing up background checks for those purchasing firearms and limiting those on “no fly” lists from buying guns.
While house Democrats eventually left the floor of the house, Payne says his work on the issue of gun control is far from over. On Friday, the congressman invited community members and elected officials to his Newark office for a discussion and symbolic “sit-in” on the gun control effort he plans to continue championing. According to Payne, his colleagues on the other side of the aisle are failing their constituents because a majority of Americans are in favor of stricter background checks. Payne said it is just congress bending to the will of the National Rifle Association (NRA) that keeps change from being enacted.
“Right now the NRA has a stranglehold on the Republican caucus,” Payne said. “If 90 percent of the people in this country are for common sense background checks… then they are not representing their constituents.”
While the house sit-in and Payne’s subsequent action were generated by the Orlando massacre, Payne said that gun violence is a problem in many more respects than just mass shootings. He said that, because gang violence is also a major factor in gun use, engaging law enforcement in the conversation will be a critical step moving forward.
“We are really going to have to engage our law enforcement because I think they have the clearest picture about what is going on with this violence,” Payne said. “I think they are the linchpin in this. If they would speak out about this violence… I think they could be very helpful.”
New Jersey leaders who participated in Payne’s symbolic sit-in included: Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss; Maplewood Mayor Victor DeLuca; Hillside Mayor Angela Garretson; New Jersey Assemblyman Jamel Holley; Essex Freeholder President Britnee Timberlake; Essex Freeholder Clerk Deborah Davis-Ford; East Orange City Council Chairman Ted Green; East Orange Councilman Casim Gomez; Newark Councilman at Large Luis Quintana; Newark Councilman at Large Eddie Osborne; Linden Councilwoman Rhashonna Cosby-Hurling; and Roselle Park Councilwoman at Large Charlene Storey.
There were also representatives from groups like the Million Mom March and the National Council of Jewish Women.