Morristown: Gun Violence Prevention Meeting

UU Meeting with Rep. Frelinghuysen on Preventing Gun Violence, Sept. 3, 2013

Rev. Alison Miller, Rev. Craig Hirshberg, Diane Finn, Bill Tyler, Jo Sippie-Gora, Kathy Allen Roth and Jim Stevenson met with U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen in Morristown on September 3, 2013.

After introductions, Diane presented more than 70 signed letters supporting legislation to reduce gun violence.  She said the letter campaign was initiated at a talk by Colin Goddard at the showing of Living for 32 at the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship in April of this year.

Alison started by noting Rep. Frelinghuysen (RF) said he would be able to support background checks at a prior meeting in February and she asked him if he would be a co-sponsor of HR 1565 (House version of Manchin-Toomey).  RF responded that he was not supporting any particular legislation at present and that no votes on gun laws were imminent in congress.

Craig said the gun violence debate needed to be reframed to consider people who do not own guns: they have a right to live in a community safe from gun violence.  She noted more than 80% of New Jersey crime guns are from out of state.  Craig asked for strong leadership on background checks.

Alison noted RF stated he was a moderate in a previous meeting, and asked if he would support background checks as did 97% of his constituents.  RF backed away from being “called a moderate” and said he was not ready to support any legislation.  In response to Kathy’s request for specific reasons, RF said he was “comfortable exactly where I am” on this issue.

Jim asked if RF could show that same leadership supporting background checks now that he did in 1999 following the Columbine shootings.  The current legislation closes the gun show and internet loopholes that hardly existed in 1999.

Kathy asked about RF’s “terror gap” vote in which he and several other congressmen voted not to allow the attorney general to add the names of terrorists barred from flying to the gun denial list.

Diane asked why background checks already in place for store sales cannot be extended to gun shows and the internet. The HR1565 prohibits gun registration.  The anti-background check rhetoric is fantasy.

To each of the group’s questions or requests (above), Rep. Frelinghuysen generally responded with a remark of marginal relevance or cited standard pro-gun arguments e.g. lists riddled with errors, enforce existing laws first, congress too busy, 2nd amendment rights, etc.  The group pointed out several times that 97% of the voters in the 11th congressional district support background checks

In response to Craig’s question on how to make communities safer, RF cited sheriffs and police chiefs, particularly Cathy Lanier, DC police Chief.  See http://mpdc.dc.gov/page/cathy-l-lanier-chief-police.

The meeting ended with thank you’s and handshakes as people entered for the next meeting.

In an impromptu UU meeting on the sidewalk outside the office building, we concluded the UU group had presented its case well and that the congressman’s “comfort” level with inaction was much too high.  We decided that each of us would write a separate thank-you letter to Rep. Frelinghuysen on a particular topic of the meeting.

The conclusion of the group is that Rep. Frelinghuysen will not likely alter his position before a vote is taken in the house.  At that time, additional meetings with the congressman may be useful to remind him of the broad support for background checks in his district.

Jim Stevenson

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