WESTFIELD, NJ — The names of many of the victims were still unkown as they read through the list of those killed at mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, over the weekend, but in Westfield the organizers were clear on what they wanted: better gun safety measures.
Residents read the names off one-by-one at the rally in Westfield’s Mindowaskin Park Monday, where over two hundred people gathered, some of them with candles and others with signs, seeking changes to the nation’s gun laws.
Jessica Grant, a co-leader for the Union County chapter of Moms Demand Action, which seeks gun better gun safety measures, noted that while mass shootings draw much of the public’s attention, gun violence has been an issue in major cities throughout the United States.
“How many people know that five people were shot in Philadelphia this weekend? Six people were shot in Philadelphia on July 17. Seven people were shot in Philadelphia on July 30,” Grant, a Scotch Plains resident, told the audience. “Think about the gun violence that is destroying our cities.”
Members of the audience held up signs saying “Protect People, Not Guns,” “We Can End Gun Violence” and “Enough is Enough.”
“We are not going to stand by and do nothing,” said Tina Reis Baker, who chairs the gun safety committee for the local political group Westfield 20/20. “We are going to get active and fight for national gun laws to protect everyone and to protect our children.”
Colin Sumner, a Westfield High School student, said the threat of gun violence is real, and urged participants to contact elected officials at all levels of government to seek stronger federal gun laws.
“This is no longer an issue of right and left,” Sumner told those gathered. “This is an issue of doing what’s right and not what’s wrong.”
Organizers had billed the event as a bipartisan one, and when one organizer asked that Republicans officials step forward in solidarity with the effort, Councilman Mark LoGrippo, a Republican representing Westfield’s Third Ward, went to the stage.
Mayor Shelley Brindle embraced the event — billed as both a rally and a vigil — as a call to action.
“We need to stop being sad, stop being angry,” Brindle said. “We need to start getting really, really motived. As frustrating as it can be, it’s time to double down.”