MILLBURN, N.J. — On what is being called the National Day of Action Against Gun Violence in Schools, some Millburn residents raised their voices to declare "Enough is Enough" 19 years after the Columbine School shooting.
This nationwide event was spearheaded by Network for Public Education. The Millburn Township action, named Millburn Unites with National Day of Action Against Gun Violence in Schools was created and organized by 7 local women so that Millburn High School students and Township community members could walk in unity down Millburn Avenue. They chanted“No more silence, end gun violence” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho, the NRA has to go.” They were accompanied by motorists honking in support of the cause and by St. Rose of Lima chiming its bells in recognition of the day.
The group was joined by local members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, a grassroots organization founded after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. It has chapters in every state and its stated mission is “We’ve had enough. Thoughts and prayers are not enough to honor the victims of gun violence. We need action … to kick out lawmakers beholden to the Gun Lobby.” Participating municipalities have coalitions including concerned residents and mayors. In 2006, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino founded Mayors Against Illegal Guns which is a bipartisan group of more than 1,000 current and former mayors from nearly every state to fight for common-sense gun laws. Millburn’s mayor Cheryl Burstein recently joined this organization.
Residents Gina Abrams, Jane Quinn, Diane Rothenberg, Clare Begley, Jaleh Teymourian, Toula Halperin and Catherine Dorumorganized today’s event. Abrams, a mother of four, stated that she intended to “unify, inspire and inform in an event for everyone who cares about gun violence.” She said that the event was timed to coincide with the end of the high school day so that students could join.
Among the colorful signs at the rally were those that read: “Stop praying, start doing;” “I’m 16, I can’t drive, I can’t vote, I can’t drink, I can kill;” “Your kid could be next; Not one more;” “We cannot be the future if we’re dead.”
Abrams addressed the gathering and stated that “this is a moment to remember those lost at Columbine and others cut down by gun violence.” She advised that “political action is crucial and that politicians are public servants and should reflect our values.” Her speech was followed by a moment of silence and the ringing of small bells distributed to the group.
In the audience was Millburn High School junior Ranen Miao, President of the school’s Young Democratic Club, who was gathering signatures for a letter petitioning the New Jersey States Legislature and District 7 Congressman Leonard Lance for stricter gun control.
Millburn Deputy Mayor Jodi Rosenberg spoke to the crowd “as a mother first,” who wants to be able to say to her daughter with confidence that what happened at the Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14 will never happen here.
Millburn resident Kevin Quinn, Chairman of the Board of the Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence, lamented that after mass shootings, the media cycle moves on and nothing changes. But he took comfort that “because of the fearless kids of Parkland (the Stoneman Douglas students) the country finally seems ready to do something about gun violence.” He further stated that the “NRA and elected officials are hard at work making us less safe. Our work is cut out for us. We need to work as hard as the gun lobby. The start of this must be making Congressman Lance the first to go.”
Also speaking was Christine McGrath, co-leader of the Essex County chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense. A resident of Verona, she explained that the organization is modeled after Mothers Against Drunk Driving and that its purpose is “common sense reform of gun laws.” She stressed the importance of the upcoming election for Congress in the 7th District and how the organization is evaluating candidates around the country and ranking them in terms of gun sense.
The student leader of today’s event was Millburn High School junior Tina Tarighian. She stated that the “best thing [about this movement] is that students who are historically the victims are becoming the heroes of their own fate.” She read the names of the students killed in gun violence at both Columbine and Stoneman Douglas High Schools and admonished that “there is so much work left to do if we want less people killed.”