The killing of two students in a Santee, Calif., high school has renewed a debate over how best to protect New Jersey’s schools.
A state senator is pushing legislation that would appropriate $5.1 million to establish violence-prevention programs in every school district.Meanwhile, a handgun-control group wants the state to pass a “smart-gun” law requiring gun manufacturers to create weapons that can only be fired by their owners.
Even before the latest incidents, state Sen. John Adler, D-Cherry Hill, had been trying to get the full Senate to take up his bill that would fund anti-violence programs.
“It was obvious that, on a nationwide basis, we were not doing enough to identify violence-prone children before they acted out with tragic consequences,” he said. “The California incident just reinforces the need for action.”
The bill, S-942, would provide grants to school districts for violence prevention programs and to train professionals who have contact with students. Some school districts already have such programs; Long Branch teaches conflict resolution to students from pre-K through eighth grade.
The latest killings also prompted a call from Ceasefire NJ, a handgun-control group, for the state to act on its long-delayed “smart gun” proposal.
“How many times do we have to hear that no one expected it in their town, at their school, before we realize that someday New Jerseyans may well say the same?” asked Bryan Miller, the group’s executive director.
He said New Jersey’s proposal, requiring only childproof handguns to be sold in the state after a three-year phasing-in period, would help reduce the possibility of school shootings here.
That bill, S-2045/A-2535, sponsored by Acting Gov. Donald T. DiFrancesco, passed the Senate last May but has stalled in the Assembly.
“Ease of access enabled a disturbed ninth-grader at Santana High to obtain and conceal a handgun with which he was able to maim and kill his classmates,” Miller said. “The means are at hand to keep this from happening in our state.”