HOWELL – The governing body passed a resolution supporting the rights of gun owners during its last council meeting.
Councilman Thomas Russo had proposed the resolution during a recent council meeting but said he pulled it as he wanted to revise the wording of it.
“It’s a resolution supporting the second amendment in town. I felt we should add more to protect gun owners in Howell Township. I wanted to do more research on it,” Russo said during that council meeting. The resolution would not have any authority to change current, township, state or federal regulations.
“Howell has done a pretty decent job in protecting gun owners,” Russo said. He added that Governor Phil Murphy’s stance on legislation that restricts gun ownership which was what prompted him to draft a resolution on the issue.
In response to a resident’s opposition to the need for the resolution and describing the potential of Howell having a gun fight like “the OK Corral,” Mayor Theresa Berger said, “I don’t think Howell will become the OK Corral. When legal guns are handled legally there is no issue.
“We’re not going to change the 2nd Amendment. That’s not us so I think we’re just wasting our time,” Councilman John Bonevich said during the Feb. 4 meeting.
During the Feb. 18 council meeting Russo’s resolution supporting the 2nd Amendment was approved in a three to two vote.
“New Jersey’s increasingly strict gun laws have a direct impact on Howell residents, and I think it is important now more than ever that Howell knows that members of their local government will advocate for and defend their 2nd Amendment rights,” Russo said.
“We as town council members don’t have the power to directly change State or Federal law, but change often times starts from the ground up. I feel it is our duty as elected representatives of the people of Howell to let our lawmakers know through this common sense resolution that Howell supports the 2nd Amendment and responsible and lawful gun ownership, and opposes laws that cut against the 2nd Amendment.”
Berger and Bonevich abstained on the resolution while Councilwoman Pamela Richmond, and Deputy Mayor Evelynn O’Donnell joined Russo in voting for it.
Bonevich said, “we already have a 2nd Amendment. We are Howell Township Council we are not Congress. We should be putting up resolutions for things like parks. When we put up resolutions for things like this, we are asking Joe (Clark, Township Attorney) to spend time on something symbolic. I’m not a Congressman. None of us are. Every time we add something like this, we are wasting taxpayers’ dollars. I’m just going to abstain; I’m not going to vote on this stuff anymore.”
“I do believe in the 2nd amendment but I agree with Councilman Bonevich that this is something we can’t do anything about. My son has his rifles and he loves them but this is not something to be passed by us so I will abstain as well,” Berger said.
It was noted during discussion that the township’s police chief, Andrew Kudrick, had read the resolution and was believed to have agreed with it.
Russo shared a story concerning why he proposed the resolution.
“About five years ago I was in my third year in law school and I was followed home by somebody. I was in Pennsylvania and the gun laws out there are very relaxed as everyone knows. I was coming home and a guy asked me for gas money, he parked behind me so I couldn’t get out. I said okay I’ll give you some money and I walked into my apartment and I told my roommate about this guy who was acting funny. He kept looking in his pocket and seemed really shady and my roommate walked down stairs with a gun container. We were on the phone with the police and the guy took off.
“Just the appearance of a gun case was enough. I felt completely helpless from the time I walked from the car when the guy was essentially cornering me until I got into the apartment and I never wanted to feel that way again,” he said.
“I think it is our job here to advocate for responsible gun laws at the same time I advocate for not supporting a crackdown by the state. I also support extensive background checks which allow our police department to more closely vet individuals before they access a firearm permit,” Russo added.
Russo said “we recently saw a restriction on ammunition. We’re not trying to make it the wild west at all we’re trying to do make sure that we have law abiding citizens obtain guns and keep them and use them responsibly. I didn’t always feel like this but that incident changed my life, that feeling of being helpless.”