Armed with orange ribbons and cell phones, about 50 members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America gathered Friday in Morristown to continue their campaign for universal background checks and a national ban on assault weapons like the ones used in recent mass shootings in Buffalo, Uvalde and Tulsa.
“We’re sick of the assault weapons,” Morristown Councilwoman Sandi Mayer said from the town hall steps on National Gun Violence Awareness Day.
“We’re sick of our children being attacked in schools, hospitals, synagogues, churches, malls. Everywhere we go. Doctor’s offices, yesterday” in Tulsa, Okla.
Mayer, a Democrat, and other orange-clad activists blamed Senate Republicans for blocking legislation, despite years of carnage.
“We thought Sandy Hook was the moment there would be pivotal change,” said Theresa Piliero of Moms Demand Action, referring to the 2012 massacre of 26 children and teachers at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut.
“The reason we have continued senseless gun violence is because the Republican senators have refused to take action,” said Piliero, who expressed hope that members of Moms Demand Action across the country will vote them out.
Sandi Mayer speaks out. Video by Bill Lescohier for Morristown Green, June 3, 2022:
In a televised speech on Thursday, President Biden expressed outrage and called on Republicans to support a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition, expanded background checks, and liability for gun manufacturers.
Damage from an 18-year-old shooter’s legally purchased assault rifle was so devastating in Uvalde, the president said, “parents had to do DNA swabs to identify the remains of their children – 9- and 10-year old-children. Enough!”
Biden’s appeal was dismissed by conservatives who defended gun ownership and accused the president of “politicizing” the issue.
‘WHERE ARE THE REPUBLICANS?’
The political divide extends to the local scene.
“Where are the Republicans?” asked Morris County Democratic Chairperson Amalia Duarte, who appeared at the Morristown event with Democratic county commissioner candidate Judy Hernandez of Parsippany.
Duarte praised county GOP officials for attending Thursday’s Morristown for Ukraine rally, “a beautiful thing to see.”
“But they also should be here as well,” Duarte said. “This is a common-sense issue.”
Morristown Green reached out to the Morris County Board of Commissioners, which is composed entirely of Republicans, and to the county GOP organization. This story will be updated with their responses.
Friday’s ribbons–symbols of gun violence awareness, in memory of a Chicago teen gunned down a week after performing at President Obama’s 2013 inauguration–were affixed to downtown light posts. Cell phones were used to text lawmakers with demands for action.
Established with a single Facebook posting one day after Sandy Hook, Moms Demand Action has grown to 8 million members. Piliero said that includes 500,000 since last month’s murder of 19 children and two teachers at Robb elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
Ten people were shot dead only days earlier, in a racist attack on a supermarket in a Black neighborhood in Buffalo, NY.
Women at the Morristown event acknowledged their frustration, citing other countries that acted swiftly after mass shootings.
Harriet Sepinwall of Montville said she can’t fathom how an America in which licenses are required for everything from driving a car to performing surgery can allow unlicensed gun ownership.
Jaime O’Brien, a lawyer from Chatham, said her township’s Republican controlled governing body refused her request to issue a proclamation recognizing victims of gun violence for Gun Violence Awareness Month.
O’Brien recounted an active shooter situation when her son was in college. While it proved to be a false alarm, she described the period of uncertainty as “indescribably frightening.”
Randolph resident Leslie Moran founded the local chapter of Moms Demand Action in 2016. She hopes New Jersey, with its tough gun laws, can be a leader in the national debate.
Moran applauded Gov. Phil Murphy’s re-introduction of even stricter measures, and his call for votes on every gun measure before the state legislature, to put lawmakers’ positions on the record.
Lisa Bentley, an attorney and mother of three from Randolph, said she had grown weary of fighting this uphill battle. The recent shootings re-galvanized her to “come out and do something once and for all.”
Asked about President Biden’s call to remove the immunity that has shielded gun manufacturers from lawsuits–a strategy used effectively against the tobacco industry– Bentley said she is ready to do her part.
“I’d be more than happy to do pro bono work,” Bentley said. “Maybe that is the answer.”
Correspondent Bill Lescohier contributed to this report.