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NJ Residents for Action to Meet With Congressman Lance Monday

Group hopes Lance will agree to a Town Hall-style meeting in Westfield.

Westfield resident and single mom of two Karen Egert was so shaken and saddened by the mass shooting in Newtown, CT, that she felt compelled to act.

The singer and musician started a grassroots effort that began with a candlelight vigil in Mindowaskin Park the day after the elementary school massacre. Today, Egert is the president of NJ Residents for Action, a statewide community-based group started by Westfield residents working toward meaningful legislation, which includes a federal ban on assault weapons and magazine clips, universal background checks, and stronger punishments for illegal gun purchases.

Egert said she knows she's not alone in her desire to see stricter gun laws in place. Citing a recent Fairleigh Dickinson University poll that found that 75 percent of registered voters in New Jersey favored greater restrictions on guns and ammunition, Egert said it is time for local lawmakers to hear the voices of their constituents.

NJ Residents for Action will meet with Congressman Leonard Lance (R-7th District) at 10 a.m. Monday, Feb. 4. Egert said she and other members of the group are very pleased that he's agreed to meet with them but are concerned that, in the past, Lance has had a record of voting against "any common sense gun legislation that has come to his desk." 

"We're giving him every opportunity to meet with us and we're very happy that he wants to engage with us and set up a town hall meeting," said Egert, who added that the Westfield Board of Education has already agreed to allow the group and Lance to use one of its school buildings for the meeting. 

"The New Jersey state legislature has been working very actively in trying to keep our state safe and we have an assault weapons ban here in New Jersey but our Congressman has spoken out publicly and said he is against a federal assault weapons ban," Egert said. "More frighteningly he voted for House Bill HR-822. What it does is it invalidates New Jersey's laws and it allows gun owners with permits from other states who are not allowed to conceal and carry in our state and it trumps our state's rule. At this point, he is reckless in endangering our state's residents and also he is invalidating our state legislature. I believe he is endangering the residents' safety for politics."

Egert said while Lance, who has received an A- rating from the National Rifle Association, has consistently been campaigning as a moderate she believes his voting record, particularly on this issue, is anything but. 

"I would argue that most of the residents have not been aware of this," she said. "Since the Sandy Hook incident people are becoming very aware of this issue and this is what is frightening to the residents." 

Egert said she looks forward to discussing the parameters of a public town hall-style meeting with Lance and setting a date so she can inform other concerned residents. The group is also eager to find out where Lance stands on President Barack Obama's recent gun control proposals, which according to The Huffington Post, mark the biggest legislative effort in a generation.

In an email to Patch sent Feb. 1, Lance wrote “I have called for a comprehensive study of our laws aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, potentially including closing gun-show loopholes, tightening the background-check process on gun sales and examining our current entertainment culture where Hollywood and video game makers tend to de-sensitize gun violence. 

“The President's recommendations deserve a full and thorough examination by the relevant congressional committees in both the House and Senate and I believe that process is underway.

“I am pleased that the House Energy and Commerce Committee — of which I am a member – will take a lead role in examining the current state of federal mental health research programs and what role mental illness played in the tragedies in Newtown, Aurora, Tucson and at Virginia Tech.”

NJ Residents Seek Westfield Mayor's Support

On Tuesday, Egert and fellow NJ Residents for Action members spoke before the Westfield Town Council (see attached video) to ask Mayor Andy Skibitsky to join Mayors Against Illegal Guns, an initiative co-founded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Egert and others said they were disappointed that Skibitsky was absent from the meeting Tuesday and even more frustrated that as of Friday night the mayor had not returned their numerous calls to his home and office. On Thursday, Egert went to Skibitsky's office in person to drop off the organization's literature in case he had not received it.  

"Really, this isn't rocket science," Egert said. "I handed them the mission statement. He (Skibitsky) has the statement. He knows what the organization stands for. All the surrounding towns have joined on. There's absolutely no logical reason why he can't join an organization which is really aimed at lowering violence in our community."

Egert said she'd heard from other residents who have attended prior council meetings that the mayor is often absent and finds this "unacceptable."

"We're just asking for a response," Egert said. "He's not doing his job when he's not attending meetings, he's not answering his phone and not returning phone calls and not just from me but from other members of my group. If he doesn't want the job, step aside, because we need a mayor who isn't absent from town meetings and one who will answer his phone. I'm sure there are plenty of people who would be honored to represent the people of Westfield. If he's too busy, step aside." 

Patch contacted Skibitsky's office Friday morning via phone and email to ask if he intended to join the Mayors Against Illegal Guns initiative. As of Friday evening, neither was returned. 

Rights vs. Reason

While some argue that the Second Amendment secures their right to bear arms, nothing the group is advocating for violates the Second Amendment, said Egert, who has vowed to ignore her detractors and focus on getting her message to the masses. The activist said while her effort has gained momentum statewide, her pledge to try to bring about some change began at home. 

Egert said she has told her son, a junior at Westfield High School, "I'm going to do whatever I can for you and for your safety. I don't know what I can do, but I'm not going to stop until we do something. Because this is unacceptable. I can't bear the thought of children being at risk of army artillery."

NJ Residents for Action will hold its next meeting at The First Congregational Church in Westfield on Elmer Street at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb 6. All are welcome to attend.

Eric Gillette February 12, 2013 at 02:47 AM
Aman, I understand your point. Maybe it's just my personality. I always try to reach "across the partisan aisle" as our politicians put it so try and connect with people on a more fundamental level, rather than debating the issue directly, if that makes sense. In my life and in my experience, I've always covered more ground in this fashion, and have actually been able to experience "win-win" scenarios as a result, so despite the fact that Karen may never reply, and may not listen. . .I owe it to her as one of my fellow American citizens to at least try. :-) If it does fall on deaf ears as you say, then I've only lost about 30 minutes of my time -- and even that's debatable, since others may come across this, others who may be of the same mindset as Karen appears to be, and who may change their minds, or start to seeing things a little bit different when they see a well-placed explanation of things, such as mine. :-) That's the worst, and best I could hope for as I'm sure you would agree. ;-)
Jerseyjam February 12, 2013 at 01:21 PM
You're a bright guy. You must be the last person on earth who didn't get the heads up that the video of the Newtown parent being "heckled" was doctored and spliced. He asked a question of the people in the gallery not once or twice but three times "can anyone give me a reason why these weapons should not be illegal" (or something like that). When it was clear he was actually seeking a response, that it wasn't rhetorical (he even looked around waiting for a reply) someone finally shouted out "the second amendment". The liberal media then spliced it to make it sound like he was being shouted over. Even CNN and MSNBC backed off on the "heckling" angle. I guess your news sources are a little slow? By the way in case you haven't heard, since your info seems to come from carrier pigeons, we landed on the moon.
ralphwiggummm February 21, 2013 at 05:07 AM
I can't help but think it is hilarious that Ms. Egert has lost her nerve to parent because of a school shooting. I guess she has too much time on her hands and/or is in need of anti-depressants. If this kind of thing unnerves her, she is going to have a quite a bumpy ride for the much of the rest of her life. And we will have to put up with her "movements" whenever some unsavory event occurs that involve children or adults who are the ages her children will become. Wait until her children are a little older and infidelity raises it's ugly head...
ML February 21, 2013 at 03:50 PM
yeah, I can't imagine anyone becoming "unnerved" at 20 helpless six-year olds being gunned down as they huddled together, screaming in terror. This place is a cesspool.
Devilsfan February 21, 2013 at 04:09 PM
Yeah because a divorced mother wanted to be a friend to her mentally ill son instead of a mother and she allowed him access to her weapons. Real smart huh? So now to make Karen and her groupd feel better, while not even solving the problem with today's society as she has admitted, we law abiding citizens have to give up our rights so she can feel better? Aint happening without a fight!

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