Union County works with local, state and federal partners to make progress on common sense gun safety and community well-being.
By Alexander Mirabella
Chairman, Union County Board of Commissioners
As we continue to work our way through the COVID-19 pandemic, it is also important to keep the focus on matters of public safety that will continue to impact our community long after the virus is under control.
One of those issues is gun violence. After years of decline, gun violence has increased in New Jersey and across the country.
Although homicides, domestic violence and other crimes are most often associated with gun violence, the unfortunate fact is that guns are also a major factor in suicide. Nationwide, firearms account for the majority of deaths by suicide in the U.S.
That is why it is so important to address the root causes of gun violence, and take a holistic approach to community health and well-being.
Common sense legislative action on gun safety is a key part of the solution, including the application of laws that help protect consumers from false advertising and unsafe products.
Additional research on causes and prevention will also make a difference. Gun violence is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., but it is also one of the least studied, partly due to a virtual freeze on federal funding that has lasted for 20 years.
Fortunately, the freeze has finally begun to lift, and researchers will be empowered to fill in the knowledge gaps with actionable information.
The Commissioner Board is also proud to join with the nonprofit organization Moms Demand Action, to advocate for reasonable measures that keep guns out of the wrong hands.
In recent years the Commissioner Board has worked with Moms Demand Action to organize mayors from Union County municipalities in signing a Statement of Principals against illegal guns in our community, and to organize a public day of action in our community.
We have also partnered with the Union County Sheriff, Union County Police, Union County Prosecutor and local law enforcement agencies on gun buy-back programs, to help prevent unwanted guns from circulating in our neighborhoods.
Union County has worked with the Prosecutor’s Office on domestic violence issues over the years, and we are looking forward to additional progress now that Governor Murphy has appointed Bill Daniel as the first permanent Union County Prosecutor since 2013.
The health impacts and economic upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic have raised new challenges to safety and security. Among the measures we have taken to help support the well-being of the Union County community are:
- Ensuring that free tests and vaccinations are available to every age-eligible County resident.
- Distributing millions of emergency meals to those facing food insecurity as a result of the pandemic.
- Ensuring that federal CARES Act funding goes to help those impacted by the pandemic, including families with special needs children, local restaurants and other small businesses, and tenants behind on rent or utilities.
Last year we also launched Union County Works, a new online portal enabling job seekers and employers to connect while observing COVID-19 safety guidelines, and we created the new “Youth Forward” program that tailors employment, job training, and educational resources for the needs of residents ages 14 to 24.
In addition, we continue to focus on prisoner re-entry, immigrant rights and other initiatives that help our residents overcome obstacles may lie in the path to building a secure economic footing in Union County.
The Commissioner Board will continue to seek every opportunity to help prevent gun violence and continue to build safety, security and resiliency in our community.