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Montgomery Folks Plea for Gun Laws at the March for Our Lives Rally in Princeton

By Barbara A. Preston | June 13, 2022

Montgomery Township resident Aiden Soni, 8, held a sign proclaiming, "I'm scared to go to school," during the March for Our Lives rally in Princeton on Saturday. Soni attends one the best public schools in the country. Still, he says he does not feel safe.

Soni was one of about 350 teachers, parents, lawmakers, and students who rallied for gun safety laws outside the Princeton Public Library on Witherspoon Street. Especially poignant were the kids who spent their weekend demanding that adults "do something."

From left: Montgomery Township residents Aiden Soni, 8, and his sister Nina, 14, at the 'March for Our Lives' rally with their cousin Simran Arya, 10 and aunt Neha Arya of Monroe.

Nina Soni is a freshman at Montgomery High School. She says she attended the rally because: "I felt like this was something I could do, rather than just sitting at home and posting on social media. My mother (Hetal Soni) taught me to speak out, and to stand up for what I believe."

The many children and teenagers who attended the rally peddled messages most folks learned in kindergarten. They drove home the message that "Fear has no place in schools," and that "Grades should be the scariest thing in school." Some offered "Free hugs," and wore t-shirts proclaiming "Love wins," and "Love is the answer."

The Princeton rally was part of a day-of-action scheduled in nearly 500 cities across the U.S., in support of the main event in the nation’s capital. The student-led group, March for Our Lives, formed after the Parkland mass shooting, organized the events.

Speakers at the Princeton event included US Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman. She is the new representative for the legislative district that now includes Montgomery and Rocky Hill. Coleman spoke in favor of tighter gun controls. In Washington, D.C., she and her colleagues in the US House of Representatives just passed a gun law bill that would: Raise the age for purchasing semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21; ban high-capacity magazines; and mandate safe storage requirements for firearms.

Unfortunately, Coleman acknowledged, the bill will not pass in the U.S. Senate.

Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman at the rally.

“There have been more mass shootings in America this year than there have been days," Coleman said. "Unthinkable acts of murder have become so normalized in our society that most of them never even make headlines. The fact is that in our country, grocery stores, schools, and houses of worship are no longer guaranteed to be safe spaces. No other country in the world has this problem, and I refuse to accept it.”

"Gun laws won't change unless we act," Coleman said. "We have to act collectively. So we are out here today; we should be out here next month; the month after; and every day and month and year until change occurs. Our voice is our power. It is our right to demonstrate. It is our power."

Coleman also stressed the importance of voting to help institute change. "It is our responsibility to vote ... from the school board to the presidency," she said.

Some members in the crowd expressed frustration that, despite speaking out and voting, it seems the voice of those who want gun safety laws are falling on deaf ears. Princeton Montessori School Teacher Lisa M. Stolzer, who teaches second and third graders in the Montgomery Township school, stood firmly in the crowd with a sign she had designed four years ago to end gun violence.

Lisa M. Stolzer, a teacher at the Princeton Montessori School in Montgomery Towsnhip.
Lisa M. Stolzer, a teacher at the Princeton Montessori School in Montgomery Towsnhip.

"Unfortunately, this sign I made four years ago is still relevant," Stolzer told a Montgomery News reporter at the rally. She said she made the sign hoping to end gun violence after the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. A 19-year-old former student murdered 17 people using an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle and multiple magazines at the school in February 2018, according to the Miami Herald.

Stolzer, who lives in Lambertville, has taught school for 30 years. "I've seen school change," she says. "We are trying to teach children how to tie their shoes, but also how to keep safe."

Other teachers at the rally tearfully agreed that "active-shooter drills" at school are difficult emotionally on the students and the teachers.

Montgomery resident Stephen Dentler, who teaches at South Brunswick High School, attended the rally on Saturday and choked up while watching the children in attendance. "It was hard watching students carrying signs, and I wish children didn't have to march and protest for their own safety," Dentler said.

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Kash and Jodi Devchand of Belle Mead.
Kash and Jodi Devchand of Belle Mead at the rally.

Assemblywoman Sadaf Jaffer (D-16) attended the rally as an elected official, but also as a mother concerned about the safety of her 7-year-old daughter Zareen, who is a second grader in Montgomery Township's public schools.

"This has shaken me to the core," she said at the rally. "Every child is a miracle, and has a right to be protected. As a parent, a piece of your heart is walking outside your body."

NJ Assemblywoman Sadaf Jaffer
NJ Assemblywoman Sadaf Jaffer at the rally.

Support Needed from Gun Owners and Bi-Partisan Legislators

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker was as one of 20 U.S. senators who reportedly reached a deal on a bipartisan bill on Sunday in response to the recent mass killings in New York and Texas.

“This bipartisan agreement is a step in the right direction," Booker said on his website today. "If this saves even one child from being killed, even one family from the pain of losing a loved one, and even one community from the epidemic of gun violence, then it is worth doing.”

From left: Greg and Lynne Traina of Hillsborough with others at the rally.

Details on the agreement, put forth by 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats, are still fluid, but The New York Times reported today that it includes enhanced background checks to give authorities time to check the juvenile and mental health records of any prospective gun buyer under the age of 21, and a provision that would, for the first time, extend to dating partners a prohibition on domestic abusers having guns.

Senator Andrew Zwicker (D-16) of Kingston
Senator Andrew Zwicker (D-16) of Kingston

New Jersey already has some of the strongest gun violence prevention laws in the United States, but it's not enough, Senator Andrew Zwicker (D-16) said at the rally. Zwicker represents District 16, which includes Montgomery and Rocky Hill, in the NJ State Senate.

"Yesterday, I was driving by a local playground, and there were children outside happily playing," he said. "The first thought I had was a fear for their safety. That stopped me right in my tracks.

"How do I not think about their safety, given the horrific tragedy in Uvalde? How do I not think about all our safety, given the horrific tragedy in Buffalo? Or, the nearly 250 mass shootings that occurred in 2022 already — the more than 20,000 men, women, and children killed by gun violence in this year alone?"

"I refuse to accept ... the state of our country," he said. "Every child in America should have the freedom to walk through their neighborhood without the fear of gun violence."


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