NJ Senators testify first. Photo: Julio Cortez via SFGate.com
I taught high school for over a decade, so I have some experience with name-calling and attempts at intimidation. It doesn’t work very well, and it’s rarely effective at helping to get a point across. Also, I have to say, other than spelling “whore” correctly on occasion, the gun lobby supporters are not very impressive with their insults.
On Tuesday, while waiting three hours for the Law and Public Safety committee of the New Jersey Senate to begin hearing testimony on 14 gun violence prevention bills, the very patient friend I brought along and I made some friends and had some interesting discussions with people around us — none of which included gun laws. After testifying, however (which came after waiting another three hours to be called), those cordial faces were quite nasty.
“That was racist!” said two men, almost in unison, as I walked back to my seat. Hissssssss I heard as I sat down. And apparently, as I was speaking, some gentlemen attempted to drown out my voice by crinkling their plastic water bottles. Clever, but un-effective since the microphone only picks up short-range sounds. But really, it wasn’t that bad because I wasn’t booed at or laughed at as other speakers for gun violence prevention had been or shouted down or called a criminal or liar as some New Jersey State Senators had endured.
Waiting and sitting politely through testimony that included fears of tyranny, threats of fascist invasions, calling those who believe in limiting access to firearms traitors who spit on the graves of soldiers who have served and died for the United States of America, and listening to emotional misinformation that claimed that only those in support of more guns could have ever been victims of violent crime, I was amazed at the hyperbolic feeling expressed by those testifying. And then there was the classic idea that there should be a gun “behind every blade of grass” so that invading countries know that we will fight them. Wow. WOW.
I don’t laugh at these claims because the people who voice them almost always truly believe what they are saying. And that’s not funny. Not at all. You can watch the entire set of testimony here: NJ Senate Testimony. My testimony is at 3:19 (That’s three HOURS, not minutes.) One of the other co-chapter leaders for Moms Demand Action – NJ is at 1:07. I’ll freely admit to speaking generally about the gun bills, and not specifically — but I didn’t feel too badly about that because of many pro-gun people who didn’t speak to bills and were overtly rude and disrespectful.
One distinct exception was David Coggins, an attorney from Haddonfield, NJ. He was strongly supportive of everyone being heard, and actually shouted out “Let him speak!” when people were booing. My friend and I sat next to him, and I have to say, it was a pleasure and an honor to converse with him during our 6 hour wait. He testifies at 3:24.
I’m posting the text of my Tuesday testimony for your information. See if you can tell how nervous I was as I stumble over a few words.
“Good afternoon, Senators. Thank you for the chance to testify in favor of the gun bills presented to this body. I am a parent of two young children, I have taught public high school for over a decade, and I am a co-leader of the New Jersey chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. I appreciate the opportunity to share just a few of the reasons I support stronger common sense gun regulations, including 2723, but I would prefer the firearm safety classes were for ALL gun owners.
I’ve heard a constant stream of excuses from the gun lobby each and every time a gun tragedy occurs. When a four-year-old finds a firearm and kills his neighbor, those parents were the exception – outliers as irresponsible gun owners. When a husband shoots his wife and then himself dead in their home, he “must have snapped” or – worse – we hear the warped mentality that “she must have made him angry.” And those of us who have worked with children and teenagers in urban settings know that being a victim of gun violence within the borders of a city doesn’t make you a “gang-banger,” as the gun lobby would have us believe. It is a shameful and ugly suggestion.
I am tired of excuses. I am weary of every gun death being explained away as the exception. There have been over 70 New Jersey exceptions in just the last four months. We’re coming close to 4,000 exceptions across our great nation in that same time period. Enough is Enough. Enough excusing, enough blaming the victim, enough inaction. The gun bills presented for consideration to the NJ Senate are not radical. They are common sense. It’s respectful of 2nd Amendment rights, and it is working towards showing respect for all New Jerseyans’ right to ‘Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.’
Thank you very much.”