Gun violence victims’ relatives urge Christie to sign legislation

TRENTON – If Selina Boakai of Trenton could speak directly to the governor, she would know what to say. “We

TRENTON – If Selina Boakai of Trenton could speak directly to the governor, she would know what to say.

“We have to do something to stop all of the gun trafficking. It’s like we’re living in a lawless city.”

Her 21-year-old son, Cornelius, was killed on April 11, and she came to the Statehouse on Wednesday along with others to urge Gov. Chris Christie to sign legislation that supporters say would help stem the rising tide of gun violence.

Gun-control advocates, seeking to keep the pressure on Christie to sign several pieces of pending legislation, rallied outside the Statehouse and read aloud names of gun violence victims.

Survivors of those victims, advocates for battered women, and others called for the governor to sign in particular S2723, which among other things would offer help to prevent suicides and domestic violence, mandate training and seven-day ‘waiting’ periods.

A couple of weeks ago, lawmakers and advocates called for the governor to sign that and three other bills that address various aspects of gun violence in the wake of the school shootings in Connecticut last December.

For Boakai, in order for her son’s death to have meaning, laws must be changed and action must be taken.

She said that her son was an outgoing, upbeat personality, a budding sports analyst whose life was ended prematurely.

But she said she wonders if the governor understands the losses being suffered by families of gun violence victims.

“He’s our governor.  He’s supposed to represent us.  His kids are not being killed. (Trenton Mayor) Tony Mack’s kids are not being killed. It’s our kids who are being killed.”

For John Jenkins, of Trenton, whose 19-year-old son, Tre-Lane, was shot dead last Sept. 22, it’s about a community coming together and demanding leadership from elected officials.

“There are so many killings going on, but people don’t speak out until it’s at their front door,’’ he said.

Other advocates today included Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop who sent along a statement of support because he could not attend in person; Ceasefire NJ, the Million Mom March chapters, and the Rev. Craig Hirshberg, executive director of the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of New Jersey.

“We need to change the conversation,’’ Hirshberg said, from one of controlling access to guns to one about saving lives.

S2723 would mandate the cooling-off waiting periods for purchasing a gun, require some firearms training, and enhance denials of ownership to convicted criminals.

“This is common sense legislation,’’ she said.

Bills awaiting action:

A3797: This requires law enforcement to report firearms information to interjurisdictional electronic databases.

S2468: This clarifies that motor vehicles used in firearms trafficking are subject to seizure and forfeiture. 

S2719: This upgrades the penalty for licensed dealers who knowingly sell to someone who intends to transfer a firearm to an ineligible person (straw purchase).

S2723: In addition to the aspects of the bill touted today by advocates, this also will require a current background check be conducted by a federally licensed dealer for nearly all private sales, and require all online ammo purchase info to be reported electronically in real-time.

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Gun violence victims’ relatives urge Christie to sign legislation