MORRISTOWN – County governments have little to do with gun laws or local school systems.
No matter. The Morris County Commissioners spent about two hours Wednesday night listening to public comment on two resolutions centering on – you guessed it – guns and local schools. Both ultimately were approved.
This clash of right and left wing sentiment on guns and schools mirrors what’s happening throughout the state – and country.
Moms Demand Action, a group supporting stronger gun laws, asked the commissioners two months ago to condemn gun violence in the wake of continuing mass shootings. The group offered a sample resolution. That was quite accommodating.
This presented the all-Republican board with a dilemma, given the party’s reluctance to condemn gun rights.
A logical response may have been to do nothing on the sensible premise gun laws are made in Washington and Trenton, not county courthouses.
But for some reason, the board opted to devise its own resolution, thereby sparking Wednesday night’s debate.
The resolution was hardly what advocates had in mind.
It brought up the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, but also brought up gang violence in Chicago and “rioting and unrest” in major cities. This obvious reference to Black Lives Matter marches was two years old. It also ignored the fact that most protests, especially those in Morris County and New Jersey, were peaceful.
As some of the speakers pointed out, if one condemns BLM protests, how about Jan. 6? That omission was “curious,” but not to those who understood the politics of it all, which everyone in the room did.
A parade of speakers criticized the resolution as “racist,” but mostly because it said nothing about the need to do more to control firearms.
Speakers included Amalia Duarte, the chair of the Morris County Democrats, and two of the three Dems running this year for commissioner – T.C. McCourt and Judy Hernandez.
The resolution regarding local schools also touched on a national issue.
Enthused by electoral success last year in Virginia by a gubernatorial candidate who made school curriculum an issue, Republicans elsewhere are trying to do the same. “Elsewhere” includes New Jersey where conservatives are unhappy that new state health and physical education standards will introduce very young students to sexual material and gender role stereotypes.
The resolution asks the state to repeal the standards. This was a symbolic request to be sure; it’s not as if the state is going to listen.
Debate on this issue was at times more emotional than the gun discussion. Some parents spoke of having transgender and gay children who look to their schools for support and inclusion. These standards, they said, would help.
Commissioners did not specifically respond to what often was passionate commentary.
When debate ended, Tayfun Selen, the board director, said, “We heard you loud and clear,” and he praised the freedom one has in America to speak out.
But in this case, speaking out had little impact.
As noted, both resolutions passed, although one commissioner, Deborah Smith, voted no on the gun-related resolution saying it was “imbalanced.”
Commissioner Tom Mastrangelo was absent for the votes, which was a bit ironic.
Mastrangelo just won a contentious primary by condemning his opponent for allegedly supporting “woke” education standards, roughly the same concept the board condemned Wednesday.
At the end of the meeting, Commissioner Stephen Shaw indicated a problem with resolutions that are merely symbolic.
“We can see how divisive they can be,” he said.