Menendez on Aurora shootings: ‘a wake-up call’

BELLEVILLE – Hours after a gunman killed 12 people in an Aurora, Colo. movie theater, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) said the tragedy is a wake-up call.

“Clearly my thoughts, prayers and sympathies are with those who lost their lives,” Menendez said. “This was a senseless and horrible act.”

The senator said he favors stronger national gun control standards, noting that strong laws in New Jersey are not reinforced by weak laws elsewhere.

The Democratic senator said he favors a national program that strengthens laws to prevent people with mental illness and people with prior criminal histories from owning guns, including more stringent and uniform background checks.

He also favors federal restrictions on the size of magazines and the number of rounds per gun that can be purchased.

Menendez’s general election opponent, state Sen. Joe Kyrillos, (R-13), Middletown, issued a statement on the occasion of the horrific news from Colorado.

“Susan and I were truly saddened to hear the news of what transpired early this morning in Aurora,” Kyrillos said. “We go to the movies as a family often, and to think that a senseless act of violence like this could happen is inexplicable.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the town of Aurora and the families and loved ones of those who are suffering due to this terrible tragedy.”

Asked about his stance on gun control, the Kyrillos campaign said the Republican candidate would like to have a conversation on this issue, but not today and not in relationship to this terrible tragedy.

“We need to put politics aside and share our sympathy to those who lost their lives and the families affected,” said Campaign Spokeswoman Meaghan Cronin.

As part of his jobs tour, Kyrillos went to the Wildwood Boardwalk this afternoon and has more events scheduled tomorrow.

Menendez made his comments following a press conference in which he joined Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action; and Helen Steblecki, senior vice president of Citi Community Development and New Jersey State Director; to launch the Financial Resource Education and Empowerment (FREE) program to help veterans experiencing financial hardship.

The program would provide comprehensive housing and financial education and counseling for veterans.

“Veterans are deservedly among the most respected and revered members of this nation, but we need to do more than salute them for their duty,” said Menendez. “Even after the physical and mental wounds of war heal, many veterans find themselves struggling to survive in this harsh economic climate. Many return to find a complicated financial system which they have to navigate alone. This program makes sure they aren’t alone. I commend New Jersey Citizen Action for finding a solution to a critical and often overlooked problem.”  

"The governor still has to come to bat."
—Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson, on Atlantic City.