Following mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., Uvalde, Texas and Tulsa, Okla. more than 350 people gathered together in Princeton for a rally against mass shootings and gun violence.
Earlier this month on June 11, the people at the rally, which occurred at Hinds Plaza, joined thousands across America in demanding action against gun violence.
“This is a day of action for the people. This a government of, by and for the people. If the people act collectively, we change government,” U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-12) said at the rally. “If the people act collectively, we have different outcomes. We passed in the House of Representatives some reasonable bills that to me represent a beginning, a moving forward.”
She further said that legislation had been passed in the House of Representatives that would make it impossible for a young teenager to get an assault weapon.
“Although I believe there ‘ought not to be any assault weapons… ,” Coleman said.
According to Coalition for Peace Action (CFPA), the rally had been part of a day of action nationwide on June 11 by the student-led movement, March for Our Lives.
March for Our Lives, was created by students from Parkland, Fla., after the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, when 17 people were killed and 17 others had been injured.
In 2022, there have been 278 mass shootings that have taken place in the United States as of June 21, according to gunviolencearchive.org.
Sue Repko, one of the rally speakers, recounted a moment in her life where she witnessed an unintentional shooting when she was 12 years old in Pottstown, Pa.
“On a Sunday evening in May of 1975, my father, who was a full-time German teacher and part-time gun smith, was in his gun shop in our backyard when a customer brought a handgun to be repaired,” she said. “My father test fired the pistol pointing against a wooden backstop and that night it was under a window. After pressing the trigger to release one round as his arm lifted from the recoil another round went out on its own.”
Her father and the customer heard moaning a few minutes later. The bullet went through the window, crossed a driveway, and entered the open garage of the family’s neighbor.
The bullet pierced the neighbor’s abdomen, tore through part of his pancreas and liver and came out of his back, according to Repko. The neighbor died two days later.
“The brutality of a bullet is sudden and irrevocable. [Responsible gun owners] do exist in this country,” she further said. “We need them in this movement. We need their voices.”
During the rally, handmade signs were held up by those in attendance varying in size and messages. Messages written included “Arm Teachers with Resources Not Guns, Choose Wisely,” “Protect Kids, Not Guns,” “Is My Child Next?,” and “Spare Us Your Thoughts & Prayers.”
“We Choose Life” was one of several chants shouted out from the crowd gathered at Hinds Plaza.
Calls to action were issued by speakers for attendees to call and email New Jersey legislators and congressional politicians. Attendees were also urged to connect and join with local organizations.
“We are marching in over 500 marches across the country, even internationally, because we are four years out from the shooting at Parkland and Coral Springs, Fla. and there has been no action taken on the federal level and that is unacceptable, said Raisa Rubin-Stankiewicz, one of the New Jersey chapter leaders of March for Our Lives.
She further said, “Gun violence is on the rise and we know that it will continue to be on the rise.”
“We know that this issue should have been addressed a long time ago and that is why we must address it now. There is no time to waste,” Raisa said. “Even one life is a legislative and policy failure.”
Raisa stressed one of the actions she recommends is the passage of “gun safety package 3.0” currently before the New Jersey State Legislature.
The package includes legislation that makes it easier to sue gun manufacturers, enhance the standard for safe storage of firearms in the state that requires them to lock firearms in box or safe and separately store ammunition.
The package also has legislation that would raise the age for people purchasing long guns from 18 to 21.
According to Giffords Law Center, New Jersey ranks high as one of the states with the strongest gun laws in the country. New Jersey ranks second in the Giffords Law Center Annual Scorecard behind California.