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Officials in Cumberland County are apparently the first to dedicate an entire month to improving gun safety and decreasing gun violence.

The move by the freeholders follows what authorities called an increase in the number of shootings that left people dead or wounded during the past several years.

The freeholders named June as Gun Safety and Violence Awareness Month. The action is the first of its kind in New Jersey, said Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae.

The initiative was led by the Cumberland County Positive Youth Development Coalition, a countywide group seeking juvenile delinquency reduction and prevention, and involves providing a video about gun violence to each municipality in the county. The video was produced by the Boys & Girls Club.

The project also involves a Stand Up for Gun Safety event from 6:30 to 8 p.m. June 8 at Cumberland County College’s Luciano Conference Center. The event will include naming the winners of a video public safety announcement contest regarding guns.

The coalition also worked with the Sheriff’s Office to develop a gun safety education curriculum for middle school students, Webb-McRae said. The program is being provided to parents and students in the 21st Century Schools programs in Bridgeton, Millville, Vineland and Commercial Township, she said.

The coalition “hopes that the designation of June as Gun Safety and Violence Awareness Month” will shed light on the very real issue of gun violence in Cumberland County and motivate open dialogues about the issues,” Webb-McRae said.

“This is just one example of the positive impact that (the coalition) has made over the past several years in our county,” said Cumberland County Freeholder Director Joe Derella.

Some county officials want the county’s designation to spread statewide.

“Hopefully, someday, New Jersey will join New York and become the second state in the country to recognize June as Gun Safety and Violence Awareness Month,” said Bridgeton Mayor Albert Kelly.

Bridgeton in November was the county’s first municipality to support the June designation. Commercial, Greenwich, Hopewell, Deerfield, Lawrence, Fairfield and Maurice River townships, and Millville and Vineland, have since supported the project.

Staff writer

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