Pedaling gun reforms: Five years later, Newtown cyclists change direction in Morristown

Police escort Team 26 into Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Police escort Team 26 into Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
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On Saturday they arrived in Morristown for their fifth annual stopover. The only difference this time: The Team 26 cyclists came from D.C., instead of pedaling to the capital.

“We’re turning our backs on Washington and Congress, due to their inaction,” said team member Tommy Fadoul, after 115 soggy miles in the saddle.

Team 26 rider gets a hug in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Team 26 rider gets a hug in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Around 8:30 am on Sunday, May 7, 2017, the cyclists will roll from Morristown town hall and head for home.

That’s Newtown, CT, where 20 children and six staff members were gunned down at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.

Ever since that tragedy, Team 26 has been keeping the heat on elected officials to enact common-sense gun laws, such as universal background checks and bans on assault weapons.

“We regulate cold medicine better than we regulate guns,” the Rev. Cynthia Black, pastor of Morristown’s Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, said at a town hall rally for the riders.

Slideshow photos by Jeff Sovelove and Kevin Coughlin

Police escort Team 26 into Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Crowd welcomes Team 26 in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Shannon Vitolo with kids' drawings at Team 26 rally in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Team 26 rider gets a hug in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Team 26 cyclists in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Team 26 cyclists with Moms Demand Action activists in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg addresses Team 26 rally in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Team 26 riders arrive in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Team 26 bikes into Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Team 26 sign in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Kevin Herzog of Gays Against Guns addresses Team 26 rally in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Team 26 cyclists arrive in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Tommy Fadoul of Team 26 in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Team 26 cyclists after 115 miles in the saddle, in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Family listens at Team 26 rally in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Shooting victim Carolyn Tuft, right, speaks with Mayor Tim Dougherty and state Sen. Loretta Weinberg at Team 26r ally in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Carolyn Tuft, a victim of gun violence, is acknowledged at Team 26 rally in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
People greet Team 26 in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Residents welcome Team 26 in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Crowds with signs for Team 26 in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Mom snaps photos of Team 26 in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Mayor Tim Dougherty speaks at Team 26 rally in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Team 26 riders in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
he Rev. Cynthia Black delivers a prayer at Team 26 rally in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
State Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-37th Dist.) Team 26 in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Mayor Tim Dougherty speaks to packed room at Team 26 rally in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Loretta Weinberg and Mayor Tim Dougherty Team 26 in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Charlene Makos Hoverter, who sister was shot dead 31 years ago, speaks at Team 26 rally in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Charlene Makos Hoverter remembers her slain sister, at Team 26 rally in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Team 26 riders and dignitaries in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Carolyn Tuft has tried to pull her life together after her teenaged daughter's murder. She attended Team 26 rally in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
State Sen. Loretta Weinberg, a Million Moms activist, Mayor Tim Dougherty and Assembly candidate Lacey Rzeszowkski at Team 26 rally in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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Speakers included victims of gun violence from across the country. Fadoul, a 32-year-old designer, lost a cousin at the Virginia Tech massacre a decade ago. Charlene Mokos Hoverter, a retired school principal from Barnegat, lost her sister –a mother of four–to an armed robber in Chicago 31 years ago.

“The pain someone feels when you lose someone to gun violence never goes away,” said Hoverter.

“I’m outraged at the lack of outrage. People should be shocked at every senseless killing with a gun, instead of, ‘oh, here’s another one,'” she said.

Crowd welcomes Team 26 in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Crowd welcomes Team 26 in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Carolyn Tuft of Utah survived three shotgun blasts during a mass shooting in a mall in February 2007. Her 15-year-old daughter, Kirsten, was executed next to her by a teenager who shot dead four more people before police finally killed him.

She has no patience with the National Rifle Association’s argument that guns don’t kill, people do.

Charlene Makos Hoverter, who sister was shot dead 31 years ago, speaks at Team 26 rally in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Charlene Makos Hoverter, who sister was shot dead 31 years ago, speaks at Team 26 rally in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“People with guns kill people, people who shouldn’t have guns kill people. And we could do something about that… If we keep the wrong people from getting guns, it would save a lot of lives.”

“Nobody should go through this,” added Tuft, who underwent seven surgeries and still suffers from lead poisoning caused by buckshot in her body.  “People are too complacent about gun violence until it lands in their lap.”

The lack of gun reforms is “almost overwhelming,” said state Sen. Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37th Dist.), who has tried to pass legislation reducing the size of ammunition clips from 15 rounds to 10.

She said Gov. Christie has opposed that bill and universal background checks, while “single-handedly” attempting to make it easier for Jerseyans to carry concealed weapons.

Shooting victim Carolyn Tuft, right, speaks with Mayor Tim Dougherty and state Sen. Loretta Weinberg at Team 26r ally in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Shooting victim Carolyn Tuft, right, speaks with Mayor Tim Dougherty and state Sen. Loretta Weinberg at Team 26 rally in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Nationally, the National Rifle Association spent $53 million last year to elect Republicans; the sum included $30 million for Donald Trump’s campaign, Weinberg said.

“But that’s okay. Because we’re willing to fight, and to stand up with the leadership of the young people like Team 26,” she said.

Acknowledging the cyclists’ frustrations, Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty pledged the town’s continuing support.

“We will stand with you. We will fight for you,” he said.

“It is not that huge a lift for a country to get behind something as simple as a universal background check,” Dougherty said. “We’re not looking to take people’s guns away…but we have to close the loopholes.”

Team 26 cyclists in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Team 26 cyclists bow for a prayer in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

When the AIDS epidemic struck, the gay community organized and pushed hard for research and treatment. The public must gear up the same way to demand stricter gun laws, even though “it’s scary [and] contentious,” said former Morristown resident Kevin Herzog of Gays Against Guns.

Former council President Rebecca Feldman, a founder of the Morris Area Committee to Reduce Gun Violence, appeared ready to accept that challenge.  She got cheers by rapping the gun record of Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.), who has a favorable rating from the NRA.

“If you have a Congressperson who thinks that people with mental challenges, who can’t even deal with their own finances, should be able to get a gun, you need to get a new Congressperson,” she said.

“If your elected representative in Washington thinks that concealed carry across state lines is a good thing for New Jersey, you need to get a new Congressperson.

MORRISTOWN GREEN COVERAGE OF TEAM 26

Team 26 cyclists with Moms Demand Action activists in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Team 26 cyclists with Moms Demand Action activists, and survivors of gun violence, in Morristown, May 6, 2017. Photo by Jeff Sovelove

 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. This annual ride inspires us all to go the distance for common sense gun laws. Every day, every day the carnage continues. Find a member of the NRA and talk with him or her Assure them we believe in the 2nd amendment AND common sense. Great coverage.

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