Enough is enough. Enough young lives snuffed out, enough dreams lost to gun violence, enough families shattered.
That’s the message that was delivered to the crowd of students and adults who gathered at Lawrence High School for a vigil and rally in memory of recent gun violence victims on June 6.
The event was organized by Lawrence Youth Against Gun Violence in the wake of the shooting deaths of 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and of 10 adults who were killed while they were shopping at a grocery store in Buffalo, N.Y.
Speaker after speaker emphasized the need to end gun violence. In between speakers, students read off the names of the victims and offered snippets of what those victims were like and how they lived their lives.
Lawrence High School junior Sophia Garcia said “we were young” when she and her schoolmates were forced to accept how many lives were lost in the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Sandy Hook, Conn., Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., and the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.
“We were very young when we had to face the truth that gun violence affects every town, every school and every student. We want to live our dreams in a world where we don’t have to rely on luck to survive,” Sophia said.
“We are coming together today in our way to grieve and to imagine ways to create a better society. We want to reaffirm that violence and fear are not – and should not – be normal. We can honor each (victim) for just a moment today, knowing they will be remembered and grieved and loved long beyond their lifetime,” she said.
Oresa Napper-Williams, who founded the group “Not Another Child” after her son was killed by a stray bullet in 2006, urged the attendees to “stop the shooting.” The group provides unconventional therapeutic support and also advocates for families and communities impacted by gun violence.
“We have to tell everyone ‘Enough is enough.’ School and workplace shootings know no color or ethnicity. It will hit every one of us,” Napper-Williams said.
“Since it is obvious that nothing is happening to halt gun violence, it is up to the community to make its voice heard, ‘your voice counts’ to advocate for solutions.”
Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D-15) said she was not wearing orange – the color of the end-gun-violence movement – because she had attended so many such rallies that “my orange has worn off.”
Reynolds-Jackson said she is not a stranger to gun violence. Her cousin was 18 years old when he was shot to death in 2001. Two weeks ago, a stray bullet went through her mother’s kitchen window in Trenton.
“We need to take this to the polls. Not the 15th Legislative District, we need to go to [the U.S.] Congress,” Reynolds-Jackson said.
Lawrence Township Councilman Christopher Bobbitt told the attendees that “words are powerful. I hear you.”
Bobbitt said he believes the lack of solutions to gun violence is the result of a lack of character and of indifference. Politicians want to win the next election and while they may say gun control is a priority, they don’t care about the young people who are being shot, he said.
“I hear you. I will do my best, but it’s up to everyone (to bring gun violence under control),” Bobbitt said.