Bass River Mayor Promotes Gun Safety for Children and Legislators

Mar 03, 2015

Bass River Township Mayor Deborah Buzby-Cope is currently the president of the New Jersey Conference of Mayors but will be retiring from that post in April. For her outgoing legacy, she wants to reinstate gun safety programs for children that used to be in the state’s Drug Abuse Resistance Education program. The DARE program that was run through the N.J. State Police was shelved a few years ago for budgetary reasons. Local Municipal Alliance Committees took up the slack with drug and alcohol prevention programs in elementary schools, but according to Buzby-Cope, the gun safety piece is missing.

“Children in rural areas are more likely to know that guns are not toys and to tell an adult if they see one,” said Buzby-Cope. “But others who don’t know about guns are more apt to view them as toys, and that has led to tragic occurrences.”

She recently contacted the National Shooting Sports Foundation for copies of its “Firearms Safety Education For All Ages” DVD and has been supplying them to mayors, legislators and educators she knows. The DVD includes a presentation for children in grades K-6 featuring “McGruff the Crime Fighting Dog on Gun Safety,” a segment for older kids in grades 6 through 9 called “Playing it Safe Around Guns,” and two segments for adults on “Firearms Safety” and “Range Safety and Etiquette.”

“I hope to get legislation passed that would require gun safety be taught at the elementary schools, probably through the health class. It would be just a 15-minute segment, but it could save a child’s life.”

She has gone a few steps farther in her cause for gun safety by inviting mayors and legislators to join her at Shooters Gun Range in Little Egg Harbor to fire a weapon and learn about safety. Many were intrigued, and last week, in conjunction with the owners of Shooters – George Kurtz, Diane and Tom Gormley and Jim Meyers – she hosted 14 legislators at Shooters, mostly women, who had never shot a gun before. According to one who attended, Eagleswood Mayor Debra Rivas, “We had a blast.”

“It was lots of fun,” said Buzby-Cope. “And they learned about gun safety from the instructors.”

Buzby-Cope and Shooters are hosting another gun-party on March 13 and hope another group of legislators will join them. Buzby-Cope will then officially present her idea to reinstate gun safety for minors during the New Jersey Conference of Mayors in Atlantic City, held at the Borgota the weekend of April 22- 24.

On March 14, children ages 10 to 16 are invited to Red Wing Sporting Clays in Port Republic for a chance to shoot shotguns at no charge on its outdoor shooting range. “They will learn gun safety with shotguns,” said Buzby-Cope. Port Republic Mayor Gary Giberson will assist range owner Butch Conover in instructing and monitoring the free program.

Red Wing Sporting Clays is located at 317 Sooys Landing Rd. Call Conover at 609-652-8342 for more information or Giberson at 609-381-1200.

— Pat Johnson

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