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MORRISTOWN – Lisa Bhimani, one of two Democratic Assembly candidates in District 25, says running on an anti-gun violence platform in the mostly Morris County district would have been “unthinkable” just a few years ago.
But now, she says, it’s a “mainstream issue.”
Bhimani was speaking at a Tuesday evening roundtable on gun violence hosted by her and her runningmate, Darcy Draeger, but if you ignore the politics of it all, there is some truth to what she says. The anti-gun violence demonstrations that we saw in Morristown and across the country after last year’s Parkland, Fla. shooting probably helped fuel Democratic turnout last fall. If not, it certainly didn’t hurt.
This can be a troubling issue for New Jersey Republicans, who traditionally are more sympathetic to Second Amendment rights than Democrats.
In District 25, a longstanding GOP stronghold, Republicans are fighting back.
Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco recently sent out a release highlighting his support for various gun restrictions. Bucco is seeking reelection on a ticket with newcomer Brian Bergen.
The release said, “I very recently voted yes on bipartisan measures to require enhanced background checks on private firearm sales, increase penalties for illegal firearm transfers, ban bump stocks, adopt the federal definition of ‘armor piercing ammunition’ and ban purchasing firearm parts to make ‘ghost guns.'” Bucco also highlighted his support for panic alarms in schools, a bill originally vetoed by Chris Christie, but signed by Gov. Phil Murphy.
Helping Bucco defend himself was Morris County Sheriff James Gannon who said the assemblyman is “second to none” in working to keep communities safe.
Bucco’s response does exemplify how stopping gun violence has indeed become a “mainstream issue.”
New Jersey already has very strong gun restrictions, so the real debate is on the federal, not the state, level. But that’s probably not going to stop Democrats seeking Assembly seats from talking about it.
Take Tuesday night’s discussion at Democratic campaign headquarters.
The panel included a dozen or so people, but there was no disagreement over the need to do a better job controlling firearms. In summary, all agreed that Democrats do a much better job standing up to the NRA than Republicans do.
There was talk of how some students “fear” going to school and ridicule for the NRA’s argument that you stop a “bad guy” with a gun with a “good guy” with a gun. Some also noted that while many nations have provocative video games and mentally ill individuals, they don’t have anything near the gun violence the United States has.
One speaker asserted that the Second Amendment should be seen as providing citizens with a “qualified” right to bear arms.
This is one reason why the debate is so divisive. In truth, we have a Bill of Rights in the United States, not a Bill of “Qualified” Rights.
Nonetheless, after still more mass shootings in the last month and a growing demand to do “something” about guns, Democrats think they have the momentum on their side.
We’ll see in a few months how far it takes them in District 25.