By Anna Gombert
If Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.) won’t stand up to the gun lobby, he should step aside, the Rev. Alison Miller on Saturday told a Morristown vigil marking the upcoming fifth anniversary of the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“It is time for men, for leaders… like Frelinghuysen…to give up their seat if they don’t even have the courage to be a voice for power and love,” said the minister, who urged citizens to unite against the National Rifle Association.
“Call the local papers, write editorials, show up on the doorsteps of your legislators, and tell them that you do not want to see their faces one more time for a grieving widow, a grieving sister, a grieving child. That all you want for them is to join with you in righteous indignation,” Miller told a few dozen people gathered at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer.
The hour-long vigil was organized by the local chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and supported by the Brady Campaign, the Million Mom March and the Newtown Action Alliance.
It featured stories from survivors of gun violence, songs by community members, and a candlelit ceremony. Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty and First Lady Mary Dougherty were among participants who displayed photos of victims from mass shootings at Sandy Hook, Orlando and Las Vegas. Each victim’s name was accompanied by the somber beat of a gong.
Twenty first-graders and six staff members were gunned down at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown, CT., on Dec. 14, 2012.
Slideshow photos by Bill Lescohier:
On average, 93 people die from gunshots every day in America, said the Rev. Cynthia Black, rector of Redeemer and president of the Morris Area Clergy Council. Thirty-two of the dead are murder victims; 58 are suicides. The dead on an average day include seven youths age 19 or under.
Black rattled off more stark numbers:
In an average month, 50 women are shot dead by intimate partners in the U.S. Black men are 14 times more likely than non-Hispanic white men to be killed by guns. America has nearly 12,000 gun homicides a year, a rate more than 25 times the average of other high-income nations, according to Black, who declared that “ending this madness…is a faith issue.”
“As long as we let the voice of fear speak louder than the voice of love, the voice of peace, nothing will change,” Black said.
Three women spoke of family members harmed by gun violence.
Katy McClure told the story of her sister, seriously wounded by a gunshot to the head from her abusive husband on a Maryland street in 2006. Tiffany Starr choked up recounting how her father was shot and killed trying to protect her sister and the rest of the family from the sister’s abusive ex-boyfriend in 1994.
Katy McClure describes a wounded family; video by Bill Lescohier:
Charlene Mokos Hoverter, New Jersey survivor engagement leader for Everytown for Gun Safety, described how her sister was fatally shot outside her church as she was going in to pray. The shooter never was apprehended.
“We should be outraged by every senseless death,” Hoverter said, exhorting listeners to contact their elected representatives about stricter gun laws.
Charlene Mokos Hoverter on a senseless slaying, video by Bill Lescohier:
Such laws should include limits on the number of bullets a weapon can fire, and scrapping a proposed measure that would enable concealed-carry permit holders to carry their guns across state lines, said Miller, minister at the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship.
When she told Frelinghuysen that Morris County residents overwhelmingly desire tougher federal gun laws, she said, the 12-term congressman responded that the matter was too risky politically.
“He wasn’t willing to take a risk…because the people who live in Hunterdon love their guns. That’s what he said,” Miller told the gathering.
“We must counter the NRA, which has become a funding source for the gun lobby, for the proliferation of guns and for corporate interests, as opposed to a gun safety organization like it used to be,” Miller said.
Every faith, she said, has principles stating that senseless violence is wrong. The Unitarian tradition establishes the inherent worth and dignity of every person as its first principle, she said.
Theresa Piliero, co-leader of the Morris County chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said it’s “important to acknowledge, to remember, and to honor with action, and this is a way we can involve the whole community in doing that.”
Black said the event was in character with Redeemer’s motto, “celebrating love, doing justice.” If all area faith groups unite around an issue, she said, “we can do amazing things.”
Musical performances included a pair of original songs, Hate and Fear by Mike Vrabel, and Candles and Guns by MorristownGreen.com editor Kevin Coughlin, accompanied by Beth Bachmann. Violinist Joseph Gluck played Somewhere from West Side Story.
Anna Gombert, Drew University Class of ’20, is Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Drew Acorn.