Over 500 residents in different cities across The Garden State were shocked after they received letters this week stating they had 30 days to find another home thanks to new legislation that will no longer allow residents in the state whose names promote violence.
“I was dumbfounded,” said Sheila Gunn, who has lived in New Jersey for over 40 years. “I thought it was a joke at first, but it wasn’t.”
According to the letters, state officials are making an effort to reduce violence in the state and there’s just no room for anything – or anyone – who does not promote peace.
“There were many officials at all levels in the state who felt like having a large population of residents with questionable names just wasn’t in line with the type of atmosphere we want to promote in New Jersey,” Middlesex County Department of Building and Land Settlements supervisor Jerry Osborne explained.
“We want people to feel free to live, work and play in New Jersey without the fear of something bad happening,” Osborne continued. “And when you have people running around with the last name Gunn – no matter how you spell it – it stirs feelings of fear in people, and that’s just not something we want here.”
While most who received the letters are still overwhelmed by the thought of being kicked out of the state over their names, others think it’s not such a bad idea.
“With everything that’s been going on lately, all the violence and shootings and such, yeah, I think it’s good to do whatever we can to make a difference,” Julie DePriest, a long-time resident of Paterson and mother of three, told WTF News 12. “I mean, I’ve got my kids to think about.”
Still, others think the idea is absurd.
Thompson Gunn, who has lived in the basement of his mother’s Newark home for nearly 12 years, says he understands what the state is trying to do and he’s all for reducing violence, but the focus is misguided.
“Some experts say that all of these different things are causing violence in today’s society,” Gunn said. “But I’m just not buying it. Violence is on the rise, yeah, but guns and so-called violent video games aren’t the problem.”
Gunn explained that he’s currently unemployed and regularly plays video games which some experts warn may promote violence.
“Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, Battlefield, all of those,” Gunn added. “I play every single day, sometimes eight, nine, ten hours a day, and I’ve never hurt anybody in my life.”
Gunn said that both he and his mother plan to move in two weeks.
However, for any of the 527 residents who received a letter but wish to stay in the state, there is another option. The state is giving them the opportunity to legally change their names. The paperwork for name changes must be submitted no later than April 15, and according to the letters, new names which still “promote violence” will not be accepted.
Those who opt to keep their names and leave the state have until April 21 to relocate. Osborne explained that because they realized it is a burden, various agencies across the state have pooled funds in order to pay for 65 percent of moving expenses for both individuals and families. Additionally, the state of Texas has stepped up and offered free housing for six months for displaced New Jersey residents looking for a more “Gunn-friendly” home.