TRENTON, N.J. – Republican members of the Assembly Appropriations Committee slammed Democrats for moving a bill banning body armor possession that could carry criminal consequences for veterans and prohibit parents from buying bulletproof backpacks.
Assemblyman Brian Bergen (R-Morris), holding up his U.S. Army-issued body armor he wore as an Apache helicopter pilot while serving in Iraq, argued the bill could hurt veterans who have similar tokens from their service.
“You’re creating criminals out of Americans who helped defend our very freedom. At one point this served to protect me, but now it serves to potentially put me in jail. Who am I hurting and who are my brothers and sisters in arms hurting?” asked Bergen (R-Morris).
Assemblyman Kevin J. Rooney moved an amendment to exempt bulletproof backpacks from the bill.
“The moms and dads across New Jersey are going to find that it is partisan and that we are rushing a bill that now doesn’t protect their children,” Rooney (R-Bergen) said.
Assemblyman Antwan McClellan, who works for the Cape May County Sheriff’s Office, countered Democrat criticism of a Republican’s attempt amend a bill.
“If we all care about our kids in our schools, then why can’t we all just sit around and talk about that? A backpack may seem not protective enough, but if the kid turns it around and hides behind it, it is protective. If we want a common sense approach then we need to have a common sense conversation,” McClellan (R-Cape May) said.
Assemblyman Jay Webber also expressed his disappointment in the amendment being tabled by Democrats.
“You can’t come into the statehouse and say you’re going to protect our kids, you’re going to protect our kids, you’re going to protect our kids and then a very simple amendment that would allow moms and dads to put a protective backpack on the backs of their children is offered, and at the altar of politics, you vote it down. That is unacceptable,” Webber (R-Morris) said. “I think the country is seeing how upset parents get when you get between them and their kids’ education. Let’s watch how upset New Jerseyans get when you come between parents and the protection of their kids.”