By Donald Gilpin
With a focus on mourning the lives lost in recent mass shootings and advocating to halt the surging epidemic of gun violence, Princeton will be hosting a rally at Hinds Plaza next to the Princeton Public Library on Saturday, June 11 from 4 to 5:30 p.m.
Sponsored by the Princeton-based Coalition for Peace Action (CFPA), the rally is part of a Day of Action taking place in about 500 locations around the country and coordinated by March for Our Lives, the student-led gun violence prevention group formed following the 2018 Parkland, Fla., mass shooting.
“Our nation has been traumatized by the brutal, senseless killing of so many innocents in mass shootings in recent weeks,” said CFPA Executive Director the Rev. Robert Moore. “We invite everyone to come together to mourn, but even more important, be empowered to unite to stop and reverse the surging epidemic of gun violence across our nation.”
In addition to Moore, speakers and performers at the rally will include Teska Frisbee, Mercer County gun violence prevention lead for Moms Demand Action; Rabbi Arnold Gluck from Temple Beth-El of Hillsborough; musician Sharleen Leahy; Dolores Phillips, legislative director of CFPA’s Ceasefire NJ Project; gun violence survivor Sue Repko; Laura Zurfluh, coordinator of Indivisible Cranbury; and New Jersey State Sen. Andrew Zwicker.
In a phone conversation on Monday, Moore discussed ongoing efforts to curb gun violence in the wake of a surge of mass shootings averaging nearly two per day and a total of 45,000 gun deaths in the past year.
Moore pointed out that Gov. Phil Murphy has proposed a package of eight new gun. safety laws, including bills to strengthen firearm storage laws, to reform the gun permitting system, to promote micro stamping technology, and to hold irresponsible gun industry members accountable.
“The near-term handle to do something effective to reduce gun violence right now, and especially the danger of mass shootings, is to pass this eight-bill package in
the New Jersey Legislature,” said Moore.
He went on to note that New Jersey has some of the strongest gun safety laws and registers among the fewest per capita gun deaths in the country. Working with CFPA’s Ceasefire NJ Project, New Jersey passed 14 new gun safety laws in Murphy’s first term in office.
Moore emphasized the correlation between stringent gun safety laws and low per capita death rates, with Alabama having the weakest gun laws and the highest per capita death rate. He noted that the 18-year-old man who was charged in the Buffalo, N.Y., supermarket shooting last month that killed 10 people, “was able to buy assault weapons, body armor, large capacity ammunition clips, and everything else in New York state, which has relatively strong gun laws but not as strong as New Jersey’s.”
“In New Jersey he wouldn’t have been allowed to buy an assault weapon,” added Moore. “They have been outlawed since 1991. That definitely makes us safer from those kinds of mass shootings.” He noted that there is still a long way to go to rein in gun violence in New Jersey, “and we also have to affect the attitude about guns in this country.”
He continued, “The best way to counter the gun violence epidemic that we are experiencing is to strengthen gun safety laws, and that’s very different from anything that would violate the Second Amendment.”
As an example, Moore described the safe storage bill currently before the New Jersey legislature. “It’s not saying that you can’t have a gun in your home,” he said. The Supreme Court already ruled on that. You can have a gun in your home for self-defense.” He went on to warn, however, that the statistics indicate that if you have a gun in your home, it’s seven times more likely that it will be used against someone in the home rather than against any intruder. He also pointed out, “Intruders look for vacant homes, and thefts from private homes are a major source of crime guns.”
Moore cited New Jersey’s fed flag law, which passed in 2018 and went into effect in 2019, as a significant example of effective legislation. “There was a young man who lived in Princeton, who, in 2019 or 2020, had threatened on Facebook to do a mass shooting at the Walmart in Hamilton,” said Moore. “Law enforcement saw the threat and went to a judge and said this young man is a danger to others. The judge authorized that his guns be taken away, and he had a lot of them. That law has been used almost 1,000 times now. It’s just common sense. The best solution would be to pass a national red flag law, but unfortunately for a lot of the Republican Party that’s a bridge too far.”
Moore urged individuals to join Saturday’s rally. “It’s a way of saying get yourself informed, energize yourself. It’s good for morale and also energizes the ongoing movement to make a difference,” he said.
For more information and preregistration, visit “Upcoming Events” at peacecoalition.org. Those planning to attend are also invited to a 3 p.m. poster-making gathering at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton at 50 Cherry Hill Road.
On a related subject, Moore urged CFPA members and others to join the 40th Annual CFPA Membership Gathering on Sunday, June 12, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on Zoom. U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski (District 7) will be the keynote speaker.