MacArthur Speaks With Cops, Students, Others About Gun Violence

‘We Need to Confront’ Influence of Violent Movies, Video Games
Feb 28, 2018

President Donald Trump isn’t the only politician who held a listening session after the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on Feb. 14. On Monday, Feb. 19, area Congressman Tom MacArthur held a meeting with Stafford Township Mayor John Spodofora, local law enforcement officials, a licensed certified social worker, a local advocate for a group called Everytown for Gun Safety, and a local National Rifle Association member to discuss community safety and the issue of gun violence.

“There was no finger-pointing or name calling; instead we had a productive and open conversation about this critical topic,” said MacArthur afterward. “I walked away from this meeting believing we can effectuate real change that will make our communities safer. Doing nothing to stop gun violence in our communities is irresponsible. We must work together and advance real solutions to protect our children and neighborhoods.”

MacArthur, whose sprawling 3rd New Jersey Congressional District includes the western half of Stafford Township and all of Barnegat Township, also sent out a post-meeting tweet with a photo of himself with the gun control advocate and the NRA member.

“Charlene,” he tweeted, “is a @MomsDemand & @Everytown advocate. Randy is a member of the @NRA. I represent both in Congress. I was inspired by my discussion with them and believe we can all come together to make our communities safer by addressing gun violence.”

MacArthur’s office then fired off a press release on Feb. 21 titled “We must do more to make our communities safer.”

In the statement, MacArthur acknowledged he is “a strong supporter of the Second Amendment in Congress, and I have received support from the NRA.” MacArthur also said he has been a recreational shooter for much of his adult life.

But he also said he has “advocated for more stringent gun safety measures, such as supporting more funding for background checks and tight regulations on bump stocks.”

“While not a popular opinion with some Second Amendment groups,” he continued, “I strongly believe that background checks are worthless unless they cover every gun purchase.”

MacArthur laid out a five-point program.

First, he said the Florida shooter should never have been able to get a gun, saying the system failed.

“While I have voted for more robust funding for the NICS – the federal background check system – there are clearly problems with it. I am calling on Attorney General (Jeff) Sessions to issue guidance to states, which have their own background check systems, on ways to bolster their efforts, and make them more universal across the board.”

Second, he said Congress must provide more funding and training resources to enhance security in schools through personnel, training and additional infrastructure.

“We must consider federal grants to fund armed security in schools, as we have in airports and malls across the nation. Our schools are less secure than our banks. There’s something wrong with that.”

Third, he wants to create a national pilot program to address mental health concerns in real time. He said the pilot should follow the example of Stafford Township’s On POINT program, which partners law enforcement with social workers to provide mental health services to those who need it.

“This program is working in our district, and it will work nationwide.”

Fourth, MacArthur wants to get illegal guns off the street. He wants to increase gun buyback programs and to support “targeted, well-funded law enforcement efforts to target illegal weapons.”

Finally, he wants more studies of gun violence, conducted by “several federal agencies.”

“Any study must also consider the moral and spiritual decay in our society. Hollywood glorifies violence, the media makes its perpetrators famous, and the video game industry created ever more realistic virtual games, where killing is a form of entertainment. Sick, troubled people feed off of this. I am not suggesting that we outlaw media coverage, movies or video games, but we need to confront the impact these things have on children. I am willing to lead on, serve or support such a study, which should include diverse perspectives.”

Over the past weekend MacArthur also met with several students from Toms River to discuss school safety. He tweeted about that meeting afterward as well, saying, “Got pizza from Capone’s in Toms River tonight and discussed school safety w/students. Any conversation about this should include having armed police officers – not armed teachers – on site, improving physical security and surveillance, and additional planning & training.”

Southern Ocean County’s other congressman, Frank LoBiondo, who represents the rest of this area, has seemingly kept silent on the entire issue. His office did not respond to a SandPaper request for a statement regarding the raging school violence/gun control/armed teachers debate. No position statements appear on his official website.

Perhaps that is understandable, considering some of the responses MacArthur’s tweets engendered, with many accusing him of being a dupe to the NRA. Here are some samples:

“Toms River already has police officers at all of its schools every day,” wrote one man. “Please don’t lie to your constituents that you are actually making anything safer. You, sir, are an agent of the NRA and will be voted out.”

“How about gun control?” a woman tweeted back. “Limits on age? Ar-15? Afraid of NRA?”

“Reagan was surrounded by heavily armed Secret Service agents and cops, and he and 3 others were still shot by a guy with a revolver,” tweeted another person. “Armed teachers, cops, more guns on campus in ANYONE’S hands is NOT the answer. The answer is: BAN military style assault rifles like the Ar-15!”

— Rick Mellerup

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