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Public Speaks Out on Gun Rights, Mental Health Issues at Brookdale Forum

The Governor's NJ SAFE Task Force heard many are in favor of broader gun rights for citizens in NJ.

More than 200 people came to voice their opinion about gun control, addiction, mental health and school safety at Wednesday afternoon's forum held at Brookdale Community College in Middletown.  

The public hearing was one of three being conducted by the Governor's NJ SAFE Task Force to collect public input into the issues. 

The majority of the attendees spoke out against recent proposed legislation that would put limits on gun and ammunition ownership. They defended their Second Amendment right to bear arms, spoke earnestly about their responsibilities to protect their families, and pleaded for changes to NJ's restrictive gun laws. 

Throughout the two-hour hearing, only a few expressed anti-gun opinions. A representative of One Million Moms Against Gun Control made a comment against allowing school personnel to carry guns in school but was heckled by the pro-gun crowd, which prompted an admonishment from the task force's co-chairman, Peter G. Verniero. She left the meeting, accompanied by police escort. 

Rev. Kevin Nunn of the The Asbury Park Neptune Ministerial Alliance pleaded for help from the many government and police officials in the room to rid his neighborhood streets of guns, including AK-47s and even grenades. "I will tell you that as a pastor I’ve buried more children in past two years I could ever think of burying," he said. "My question is, is there anyone I can speak to in this room who is willing to help us to get these guns off the street?" 

Several people expressed their concern about the  state's responsibility to care for the mentally ill, especially in the face of tighter budgets, changes in Medicare, and the closure of Marlboro Psychiatric Hospital in 1998 and Hagedorn Psychiatric Hospital in Glen Gardner in 2012.

A tearful mother held the room in rapt attention as she read a statement about her fear that her mentally ill son will hurt someone -- as he had already assaulted his own parents. She explained how her son had been in the care of nine psychiatrists since the age of 7, but needs help in his adult stage of his life. "My message has been consistent. He is capable of violence," she said. "It's been suggested to us to 'let him hit bottom,'" she said, to gasps in the crowd. She said sadly, "Some violence is inevitable." 

Moments after she took her seat, a representative of the Governor's office quietly came to her side to confer with her, and take down her information.  

The members of the panel were: 

  • Former Attorney General and Associate Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court Peter G. Verniero (Clinton Township in Hunterdon County), Co-Chairman
  • Former Attorney General John J. Degnan (Chester Township in Morris County), Co-Chairman
  • Dr. Manuel Guantez, LCADC, Chief Executive Officer, Turning Point, Inc. (Fairfield in Essex County)
  • James Romer, Monmouth County Services Director, Monmouth Medical Center (Howell in Monmouth County)
  • Evelyn Sullivan, Managing Director, Daytop Village of New Jersey (Manahawkin in Ocean County)
  • Dr. Brian Zychowski, Superintendent of North Brunswick Township Public Schools (Mendham in Morris County)
Maureen Hourigan February 07, 2013 at 04:53 PM
So glad someone noticed that! :)
bd February 07, 2013 at 05:04 PM
Typical Lib----do as i say, not as i do. When idiots like bloomturd and come-o give up their ARMED security, i will listen. Until then...................................................
Helene Henkel February 07, 2013 at 05:59 PM
Marcello there is one tonight in Newark. The people at the hearing did not boo or heckle that women. What you heard was a grown after that women claimed the NRA placed the weapons in the hands of the shooters responsible for the movie theater & Newtown.
Jack Marlin February 07, 2013 at 06:01 PM
"firing a high capacity magazine in one burst" describe a machine gun (already outlawed and banned in every state). Semiautomatic weapons only fire one round at a time. NJ already has a magazine limit of 15 rounds, most states have no capacity limit.
bd February 07, 2013 at 06:34 PM
it would be silly to expect any real reporting from the 'progressive patch"-----run by and catering to libs------and don't let facts interfere with emotion.
bd February 07, 2013 at 06:35 PM
they are still beating the dead horse aka library closings with loaded articles whoops--i said loaded
fed up February 07, 2013 at 06:47 PM
Hey Sternbach, you are one clueless individual. For starters why don't you take a look @ Marcello link down below. Educate yourself before spewing ridiculous comments on a subject you know nothing about. And you think that it can't happen here. Again i say you are clueless.
RIFFAXE February 07, 2013 at 10:02 PM
i wish i was there as well it must not have been publicized. I also wish that you would inform yourself better on guns. First of all M-16's are not available to the public and as a gun owner myself in NJ we already go thru an in depth background check that takes many months to get cleared.And no carry permits are issued here that violates my 2nd amendment rights.
Barbara Sagarese Gonzalez February 07, 2013 at 11:29 PM
That very woman who wanted an armed policeman escort her out of the building, was the one who said children would be afraid of armed policeman at school. She wasn't heckled either...people moaned when she made an idiotic statement
Barbara Sagarese Gonzalez February 07, 2013 at 11:30 PM
That woman was an idiot and hypocrite just like the liberal politicians and the idiotic celebrities.
Fred February 07, 2013 at 11:59 PM
I was there at this meeting, no one was heckled, and shame on the Patch for employing this hack "Reporter". The truth is the room was 99.9% against any more gun control, against gun bans or privacy invading laws, The people commenting were all polite and well spoken, but what does this reporter focus on? The two people who were in favor of having all our rights stripped away because of the misguided agendas that guns and gun owners were the bad people. 'Seriously 200 people testifying and you report on the one crazy guy that is claiming he is seeing Ak47 and hand grenades every day in the street.' Shame on the Patch.
Barbara Sagarese Gonzalez February 08, 2013 at 12:09 AM
If they ever want me to read their blog again, they need to correct themselves on this story.
fed up February 08, 2013 at 12:18 AM
One million moms with nothing better to do. How ridiculous were her statements? Also check her out on youtube on blue jersey surrounded by liberal morons that think gun control of any kind will solve everything. when in reality wll solve nothing. when will you leftist morons wake up and realize that the sick,mental,and criminal minded will always have guns. Just look at austrailia. Now that the gov. banned the guns the only people that have them are the bad guys. Why can't they see this with their own eyes? I will never understand liberalism. It is truly mind boggling.
Bernie February 08, 2013 at 01:17 AM
The states answer , Close Mental Hospitals turn them out on the street, It saves money for pork Barrel projects of our Honorable Legislators. This is disgusting what our state has done. and you all sit -back and keep re-electing the people who make these decisions.
Bernie February 08, 2013 at 01:28 AM
New Jersey has closed two Mental Hospitals and turned away needed treatment of many people. Shame on New Jersey government for doing this to SAVE money, more importsant to them than help for the Mentally troubled.
Michael Sternbach February 08, 2013 at 02:19 AM
gee, I don't see anyone wanting a mental half-way house in their backyard. Yes, liberals were responsible for the closing of many psych hospitals in the 60s and 70s but there were no solutions presented. Mental hospitals were the dumping grounds of many families with members with psychiatric problems. Right or wrong, they were abandoned. The stigma of mental illness is still extant.Shame on those who won't accept that it is an illness that requires intensive care and medication.
Gerard St John February 08, 2013 at 11:26 AM
It is a shame a couple of the teachers were unarmed. We may have had a less kids killed if they were armed. Do not ban guns if you do then the murder rate will get worse as the criminal will not be worried about retaliation. Drugs are illegal how are we doing in that area. Read the obits and notice how often you see a young person die not from any disease or accicent.
Charlie D February 08, 2013 at 01:13 PM
One of the best synopsis of our current society. A person steals guns,(WHICH IS AGAINST THE LAW), shoots and kills his own mother (WHICH IS AGAINST THE LAW), transports these guns loaded (WHICH IS AGAINST THE LAW), brings guns onto school property (WHICH IS AGAINST THE LAW), breaks into the school (WHICH IS AGAINST THE LAW), discharges the weapons within city limits (WHICH IS AGAINST THE LAW), murders 26 people (WHICH IS AGAINST THE LAW), and commits suicide (WHICH IS AGAINST THE LAW). And there are people in this country that somehow think passing ANOTHER LAW banning guns would protect us from someone like this. If you haven't noticed, people like this are not concerned about breaking laws - they only care about fulfilling their own twisted agenda. The only people that a gun ban law would impact are the LAW ABIDING CITIZENS, which will only serve to cripple the ability to protect ourselves.
Helene Henkel February 08, 2013 at 02:30 PM
Michael, please explain. What is a "mental half-way house"? I don't believe that closing the "psych hospitals" was ever a solution. That action created many more problems, we are living with those problems now. Closing the facilities is a similar response to what they are planning now, which is banning firearms. It is not going to help the problem,it will just make it worse.
Cindy Burnham February 08, 2013 at 02:52 PM
Regarding mental hospitals, I have to say that in my opinion, closing Marlboro Psych Hospital was irresponsible. That was a needed facility and not just for the mentally ill. It is shamfull how the state has left it to become overgrown, rundown and unused.. This site should be used for something.
Michael Sternbach February 08, 2013 at 04:24 PM
Helene, half-way houses allowed inmates of Marlboro to be released to a living facility where their medications were monitored and they received care and education necessary for them to re-enter our "normal" world. There were numerous ones throughout Monmouth County allowing the population of Marlboro Psych to be released. The dangerous still remained in the institution.
Michael Sternbach February 08, 2013 at 04:34 PM
Cindy, Marlboro, in its day, was a gorgeous facility. The brickwork was spectacular. Probably built by CCC in 1931 It would have made a beautiful college campus complete with a large treed quad. Unfortunately the BUREAUCRACY probably dithered and it fell into disrepair. http://www.njdiscover.com/wp1/2011/11/marlboro-state-psychiatric-hospital/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marlboro_Psychiatric_Hospital
NJarhead February 08, 2013 at 04:39 PM
Michael, that place is a ghost town. Where are they really?
Michael Sternbach February 08, 2013 at 04:57 PM
NJarhead, Where is who, the patients. Over the years they were shunted into Asbury Park, Ocean Grove and other low income areas. I was a pharma sales rep and called on the MDs out there in the late 70's and early 80's. It is a strange feeling to go visit an MD in one of the wards and have the door lock behind you and about 30 psych patients in front of you.
NJarhead February 08, 2013 at 06:23 PM
No doubt. I visited the brother of a friend in Marlboro once. Equally uncomfortable.
NJarhead February 08, 2013 at 06:23 PM
Was used as the Duke Mansion in "Trading Places."
Michael Sternbach February 08, 2013 at 07:47 PM
The Dukes’ mansion isn’t Pennsylvania at all, but Mill Neck Manor for the Deaf, Frost Mill Road, Mill Neck, Nassau County, Long Island.
NJarhead February 08, 2013 at 08:10 PM
Well, thanks for ruining that for me. Have a nice weekend.
Helene Henkel February 09, 2013 at 12:22 AM
Michael, that is not what happened to those patients from Marlboro. Some might have been re-located, many were not. If the dangerous were in appropriate facilities we would not have had that meeting Wednesday afternoon.
KS February 09, 2013 at 02:55 AM
I see in the comments above that Mr. Heyman would like to lock up the "psychos and autistics". Since when are autistic individuals grouped with those who are psychotic, implying that autistic individuals are threatening and dangerous to the public? A shameful, ignorant assertion. I have noted that there is a blogger on the Middletown Patch who occasionally writes about family life with her autistic son. Would Mr. Heyman say to that mother that her autistic son should be locked up?

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