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    Chapter 17B: Establishment of department; "the department" defined

      Section: 52:17B-239: Findings, declarations relative to violence as a public health crisis.

1. The Legislature finds and declares that:

a. On December 14, 2012, a heavily armed man, dressed in black fatigues and a military vest, walked into a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school and opened fire, horrifically killing 26 people before killing himself. Twenty of the victims were young children, who were six and seven years old;

b. On August 31, 2012 at a Pathmark in Old Bridge, New Jersey an employee armed with an assault rifle and automatic pistol entered the store and killed two workers before taking his own life;

c. In July 2012, at a crowded midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colorado, a man wearing body armor and a gas mask entered the theater armed with an assault rifle, shotgun, and .40-caliber handgun and opened fire into the crowd. Twelve people were killed and 59 others were wounded as a result. The youngest victim was six years old;

d. On January 8, 2011 in Tucson, Arizona, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others were shot during a public meeting held in a supermarket parking lot. Six of those people were killed;

e. On November 5, 2009 there was an attack at Fort Hood, Texas where an Army psychiatrist was charged with killing 13 soldiers and civilians and wounding more than two dozen others;

f. In Colorado, the movie theater shooting described above was the deadliest shooting since the Columbine High School massacre on April 20, 1999, when two students opened fire in the Denver suburb of Littleton, killing 12 classmates and a teacher and wounding 26 others before killing themselves;

g. Assault weapons were used in the Tuscon, Arizona shooting, the Fort Hood shooting, and the Columbine High School shooting described above;

h. The above examples represent a fraction of the violence that occurs nationally and in this State every year. According to the most recent data available, in this State alone, there are 372 murders per year, meaning there is one murder every 23 hours and 33 minutes in New Jersey;

i. Nationwide, there have been more than 70 mass shootings since the January 8, 2011 shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords described above;

j. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recognized violence as a serious public health problem in the United States and has reported homicide as the second leading cause of death among persons 15 to 24 years old. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that in addition to the many violent deaths that occur in this country each year, there are many more individuals who survive violence and are left with permanent physical and emotional scars and that this violence erodes communities by reducing productivity, decreasing property values, and disrupting social services;

k. In this State alone, there are 74,244 domestic violence offenses reported by the police each year, with children being involved or present during 31 percent of these offenses, according to the most recent data available;

l. Nationwide, the equivalent of 10,000 busloads of children end up in emergency rooms for violence-related injuries every year and more than 5,500 children are murdered every year;

m. A study conducted by the World Health Organization stated that communities with high numbers of violent children also have higher health care costs, reduced productivity, and decreased property values;

n. A 2001 Surgeon General report found that programs that focused on classroom attendance, academic progress, and school behavior helped reduce violence among children;

o. Although New Jersey has strict gun control laws, these laws are easily circumvented because of the lack of similar federal laws. In order to provide more safety for New Jersey residents, the federal government must reinstate its ban on assault weapons which expired on September 13, 1994 and must expand background check requirements for gun purchases to include all sales and transfers;

p. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other scientific agencies have been barred by Congress from using federal funds to advocate or promote gun control, which appears to ban scientific agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from using federal funding to conduct research on the causes of gun violence. Congress should remove this ban and allow these scientific agencies to use federal funding to conduct this critical public health research; and

q. Based upon the foregoing findings regarding these recent horrific incidents illustrating the alarming prevalence of violence and the detrimental effects that unrelenting violence has for the good citizens of this nation and State, the Legislature declares violence to be a grave public health crisis. The Legislature finds that it is, therefore, in the public interest for the State to establish a commission to study violence in order to help raise awareness about one of this country's most significant public health crises.

L.2013, c.109, s.1.

This section added to the Rutgers Database: 2013-08-29 10:42:48.

Older versions of 52:17B-239 (if available):

Court decisions that cite this statute: CLICK HERE.