Runyan says he's undecided on adding new gun limits

U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan at the summit with Burlington County Sheriff Jean Stanfield. Education officials and mental-health experts also took part.
U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan at the summit with Burlington County Sheriff Jean Stanfield. Education officials and mental-health experts also took part. (APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer)
Posted: February 01, 2013

U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan says he has not decided whether to support any of the new gun restrictions being proposed in Washington, saying Wednesday that existing laws should be better enforced.

The New Jersey Republican made the remarks after hosting a "gun summit" with Burlington County Sheriff Jean Stanfield to gather ideas from 26 invited law enforcement officers, education officials, and mental-health experts.

Also invited to the meeting at the Burlington County Administration Building in Mount Holly was a Glassboro gun-shop owner, a member of the National Rifle Association. Representatives of gun-control advocacy groups were not present.

"There's rules and regulations in place that aren't enforced," said Runyan, who represents parts of Burlington and Ocean Counties. "To layer more rules on top of them, is that worse or does it make it better? . . . Are you burdening the system to make it harder to enforce the laws?"

Runyan said he would look for the "sweet spot that we can agree upon" if any gun legislation is proposed. Bills should include provisions that address mental-health issues, school security, gun safety, and violence in video games and movies, he said.

The Obama administration this month rolled out a plan that would ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines and that would require tougher background checks for gun buyers.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a lobbying group backed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, plans to lobby Runyan, Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.) and Rep. Pat Meehan (R., Pa.), who all have received donations from the NRA but represent moderate districts in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

Runyan said he had received hundreds of e-mails and letters from constituents on the issue, but their sentiments are "mixed, down the middle."

Asked whether New Jersey's stringent gun laws should be adopted nationally, Runyan said: "The laws in New Jersey are good for New Jersey, but the laws in New Jersey aren't going to fly in the South."

He was referring to comments made by roundtable participants about the illegal gun traffic from Georgia and other southern states, and the gun culture in the South and West.

Runyan said he would review the comments made at the roundtable and pass on ideas to his colleagues in Congress.

Stanfield recommended that more funds be allocated for "proactive law enforcement." Grants are needed to cover overtime for officers to "go out and get the guns from the bad people" who "re-offend," she said.

Robert Bernardi, the Burlington County prosecutor, said that New Jersey's laws were strict but that the problem was complex. "Some individuals are hell-bent on causing violence," he said.

Still, he said that school shootings like the one in Newtown, Conn., could be minimized if ammunition rounds were restricted. "That could make the difference between life and death" of the students who are targeted, he said.

School officials and law enforcement urged Runyan to consider early-intervention programs that prevent troubled children from becoming violent.

Robert Viden, who owns Bob's Gun Shop in Glassboro, said the issue was the "morality of our young people." Allowing prayers to be said in school would help address the problem, he said.


Contact Jan Hefler at 856-779-3224 or jhefler@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @JanHefler. Read her blog, "Burlco Buzz," at www.philly.com/BurlcoBuzz.

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