March for Our Lives bus tour makes stop in New Jersey

BY Andrew Schmertz, Correspondent |

The crowd in Morristown didn’t come to see the students from Parkland, Florida play basketball. They came as part of a nationwide bus tour the kids are on. Sarah Emily Baum just graduated from high school and is an organizer with the local chapter of March for Our Lives.

“I got involved when I first heard about the shooting in Parkland, Florida. I’ve always been an activist for any cause that I felt was worthy. And this right here right now, I felt like it was what needed my attention,” Baum said.

It was a perfect day to draw out teenagers, and a few adults, with sunshine, music and some dancing to advocate for new gun laws.

The young adults say this is the rare movement that is still being driven by teenagers.

“Getting involved and being active and like hoping other youth be active is a great way to make change,” said Freehold resident Christiahan Akinsanmi.

Elizabeth Mayer is a teacher and adviser to the group.

“I’m a mom, so I have two little girls so it’s something that’s really near and dear to my heart,” Mayer said.

And where there are kids, elected leaders follow. Gov. Phil Murphy touted his gun control record which includes recently signing a 6-bill packet that, among other things, reduced the sizes of ammunition clips allowed in the state. He spoke along with his wife.

“Our generation has failed in particular in influencing Congress to do the right thing. In particular to influence this administration to do the right thing,” Murphy said.

Tracie Mandelbaum lives in Westfield now, but attended Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

“I still feel very connected to the school, so obviously when everything happened I felt impacted so I wanted to be here and part of this event today,” she said.

The kids say they aren’t for eliminating guns and support the people’s right to own them. But they want tougher national laws on assault weapons and background checks.

Alex King lives in Chicago, where according to local media, 1,400 people have been shot this year.

“I want to see gun laws pushed to the federal level because Chicago alone has some of the strictest gun laws but that means nothing if our neighboring states have such lax gun laws. So it’s more guns being smuggled into our communities. And now our youth has been growing up around guns and so you can’t expect them to not to result in violence,” King said.

The well-known, de facto leader of the movement, Parkland survivor David Hogg says pro-gun supporters often come to the rallies, which he welcomes.

“Mainly what we do is we talk to them and explain we aren’t trying to take any guns away. And the same way you have a right to bear arms, we have a right to live,” Hogg said.

The bus tour has been through more than 30 cities. It goes from here to New York City and then to Newtown, Connecticut — the site of the Sandy Hook shooting.