The borough council affirmed its support Tuesday for legislation that would reauthorize the federal assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 and require more extensive background checks for prospective gun owners.
The resolution, which passed 4-1 with Deputy Mayor Jeanne Baratta casting the lone dissenting vote, amounts to little more than a symbolic measure, but one that council members and members of the public alike agreed was an important step to take.
"Enough is enough, it’s time we learned to live with less guns," said Councilwoman Lisa Swain, who introduced the resolution at the Jan. 22 council work session. "As a society we are always looking for ways to improve safety, and this resolution is one small step toward the safety and well being of our citizens."
Deputy Mayor Ed Trawinski supported the resolution, despite expressing some reservations. He called the resolution a "reasonable compromise" and said he would soon bring his own resolution before council that would touch on additional elements he felt were important to providing a more comprehensive solution to gun violence.
Trawinski said he did not subscribe to the slippery slope argument that imposing tighter gun laws would ultimately lead to a complete overturning of the Second Amendment.
"I believe that the Supreme Court of the United States will look out for protecting our rights under the Second Amendment and under the Bill of Rights," he said. "It can be said for almost anything that seeks to limit something that you start down a slippery slope. I think that’s an argument of convenience, but not an argument of reality."
The resolution originally appeared on the consent agenda, meaning that it had unanimous council support, but Baratta pulled it before the meeting because of the wording of parts of the resolution.
"There’s many parts of this that I do absolutely support, but there’s parts of it that I just can’t support," she said. "I’m sorry that I can’t support this as written, but I applaud my fellow council members for doing that."
Baratta said she supported more extensive background checks on gun buyers, but expressed concerns about the resolution's failure to define key terms like "assault weapon," and what she considered its mischaracterization of the Second Amendment and its vague language.
"Things like, 'Whereas research has shown that having guns leads to more gun violence.' You can replace that with, “Whereas research has shown that having cars leads to more car accidents,” Baratta said. "I find that to be a little bit lacking."
Gebhardt Zurburg, a representative of the Fair Lawn branch of the Bergen County Coalition Against Gun Violence, was one of a number of residents who spoke in support of the resolution at Tuesday's meeting.
"As a Fair Lawn resident, you make me and our citizens proud to be able to say that our council was taking a leadership role in the campaign for gun safety," Zurburg said.
The council's resolution (attached as PDF) will be sent to federal, state and county government officials, the League of Municipalities, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the mayors of every municipality in Bergen County.
Councilman Kurt Peluso encouraged residents to attend the next council work session for a discussion of recent state legislation proposed by Sens. Bob Gordon and Dick Codey that would outlaw magazines equipped to hold more than five rounds.
"I think this is an issue that’ll be at the forefront probably for the whole year until we see something come at the national level," he said.