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WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Congressman Donald Norcross (NJ-01) – a member of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force – voted in favor of the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, H.R. 8, and dedicated his vote to the memory of Charles Cohen, a survivor of the first modern mass shooting in Camden City in 1949.

Last night, Norcross told Cohen’s family story on the House Floor. Cohen’s granddaughter, Carly Novell, survived the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida last year and, like her grandfather nearly 70 years earlier, also hid in a closet during the massacre. Novell is currently interning in Norcross’ Washington, DC office. Video and text of Norcross’ Floor speech follows:

“M. Speaker,

“I’m here to tell a story about gun violence that spans multiple generations and started in my hometown of Camden, New Jersey.

“A tragic event happened in Camden in 1949 – Howard Unruh shot and killed 13 people, and this event is now considered the first modern mass shooting in our country’s history.

“During the horrific events that unfolded, a 12-year old boy hid in the closest as his mother and father were slaughtered. His name was Charles Cohen – and nearly 70 years later – in a school in Parkland, Florida – his own granddaughter – Carly Novell – hid in a closest, just like her grandfather did. Carly is with us today in the gallery to see how true democracy works.

“I’ll end with Carly’s words. She says: “This pain shouldn’t be generational.” She’s right. It shouldn’t have happened, and we must do more – for our children, for our grandchildren and for everyone in our communities.

“Thank you, M. Speaker.”

Related Policies

Related Actions

  • Norcross spoke at a community vigil in Voorhees in remembrance of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting victims on October 28, 2018.
  • Norcross hosted a district-wide school gun safety town hall with special guest Robin Cogan, a Camden City nurse and one of Charles Cohen’s daughters, and skype-speaker Carly Novell on May 29, 2018.
  • Norcross hosted a school safety roundtable discussion at Highland Regional High School with students, school administrators, chiefs of police and community leaders from Gloucester Township and Washington Township on February 28, 2018.
  • Norcross and all of the Democratic Members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce sent a letter to Chairwoman Virginia Foxx requesting hearings before the full Committee to examine school shootings on February 16, 2018.
  • Norcross strongly opposed concealed carry reciprocity legislation on December 6, 2017.
  • Norcross joined Camden residents at a March Against Gun Violence on April 18, 2017.
  • Norcross joined civil rights icon John Lewis in Camden to discuss gun violence on September 19, 2016.
  • Norcross issued a statement on the Supreme Court’s decision to place limits on the ability of convicted domestic abusers to obtain firearms on July 27, 2016.
  • Norcross participated in a sit-in calling for House leadership to bring gun safety measures up for a vote on June 22, 2016.
  • Norcross demanded that Congress take immediate actions to address gun safety on June 17, 2016.
  • Norcross urged colleagues to close the terror loophole on March 17, 2016.
  • Norcross called on Congress to close the terror loophole on January 6, 2016
  • Norcross joined New Jersey Democrats in urging House leader to save lives on October 5, 2015.


Contact: Ally Kehoe, Communications Director