FANWOOD, NJ — October 1, 2015, Roseburg, Oregon: 10 lives lost.
July 16, 2015, Chattanooga, Tennessee: Five lives lost.
May 23, 2014, Isla Vista California, University of California, Santa Barbara: Six lives lost.
Faith leaders, councilpersons, mayors, activists, a Union County freeholder and state legislators — including Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-12) — united to remember the victims of recent mass shootings on Sunday, Dec. 13, in Fanwood, as part of a Moms Demand Action rally to reduce gun violence.
After the public figures matter-of-factly read the details of each mass shooting, they lit candles to commemorate the victims, including students killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on the third anniversary of the tragedy.
“I may be a mayor, but I’m a mother first,” said Fanwood Mayor Collen Mahr, who lit one of the 12 candles on display at the Forest Road Park building. “And I know, just like those mothers at Sandy Hook, that I send my kids off to school every day.
And I know I send my kids to the movie theater, just like those mothers in Aurora, Colorado. And I know that one day soon, I will send my kids off for a college education, just like the mothers of the students in 23 campus shootings that have taken place in 2015 alone.”
Well over 100 people attended the rally organized by Moms Demand Action, a 3.5 million-member, national non-profit which set up Sandy Hook commemorations in 44 states. The Union County chapter was born in early October, according to Group Leader Lauren O’Brien, and has “been doubling membership since, every month,” demonstrating the local need to “discuss, question and act upon the reduction of gun violence,” she said.
“America is in a state of crisis,” said O’Brien. “Every day, 89 Americans are killed with guns — every day. That’s just what we know about. We at Moms Demand Action support the Second Amendment while doing everything we can to keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people, or dangerous people, and keep our communities safe.”
Many of the rally’s speakers, from Moms Demand Action volunteers to legislators like Watson Coleman and State Sen. Nicholas Scutari, offered “common sense” solutions to reducing gun violence in the United States, which O’Brien said is 20 times worse than in any other developed country.
Some of the ideas include stopping online ammunition sales by requiring bullet buyers to provide ID at official retailers; flagging purchases of 1,000 rounds or more that are made in five days; only permitting citizens to buy bullets for guns they legally own; and getting rid of “guns that are only designed to kill people,” as Watson Coleman put it, a statement which drew a lengthy applause from the audience.
“There are lots of different pieces of legislation that are just common sense legislation, that don’t deny law-abiding individuals of the right to have a gun,” said Watson Coleman. “There are so many things we could do, that just make sense.”
Another legislative possibility, floated by Scutari — who works as a prosecutor in Linden — is for New Jersey to follow Connecticut’s lead on gun control. Two weeks ago, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signed an executive order to ban gun sales from people on federal terrorism lists.
“The biggest problem in this country is we just have too many guns, and it’s just too easy to get them. Relying on the Second Amendment, that we all have the right to bear arms, is not a panacea for every person who wants to get a gun,” said Scutari, to another round of applause. “There should be more legislation to curb that.”
In addition to legislative suggestions, the rally promoted gun safety and awareness through the Moms Demand Action “Be S.M.A.R.T.” campaign, which encourages people to handle their guns responsibly. In particular, “Be S.M.A.R.T.” advises parents to keep their guns unloaded, locked up and hidden where their kids can’t find them.
Promoting gun safety was also why much of the crowd wore orange, a color that Moms Demand Action members use because “it signifies we are visible and united,” said O’Brien. It’s also the color that people typically wear to avoid gun-related hunting accidents.
Bishop Kelvin Brooks, though, bucked the trend and wore another color to remember the victims of recent mass shootings.
“As a bishop, when I make an appearance at a civic event, like today, it is most appropriate for me to wear the color black. However, I chose instead to wear the color of my office, which happens to be red — not because of status or fashion,” said Brooks, the Vice President of the Scotch Plains and Fanwood Ministerium. “It’s to remind us that despite our ages, our sex, our race, our religious beliefs, we all have one thing in common when tragedy strikes: The blood that we shed is red.”