Local chapter of anti-gun-violence group urges public to wear orange

Standing in front of Haddonfield Borough Hall from left to right: Lynn Hoag, South Jersey legislative lead, Moms Demand Action, Shani Nuckols, South Jersey local group lead, Moms Demand Action and Amy Lackpour, South Jersey Moms Demand Action Volunteer. (Photo credit, Amy Lackpour)

Borough residents Shani Nuckols and Amy Lackpour work at the epicenter of the local chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, and thanks in part to their efforts, Haddonfield will, for the fourth consecutive year, commemorate “National Gun Violence Awareness Day,” on Friday, June 7.

Haddonfield’s Board of Commissioners issued a proclamation to that effect at its most recent meeting. Part of the events on that day will include a public reading of the proclamation on the steps of Borough Hall, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. In case of rain, the event is scheduled to take place at the same time, in the hall’s second-floor auditorium. The Haddonfield Memorial High School’s student-led a capella group “Haddonfield CoEd” is expected to perform as well.

According to the organization’s website, “Moms Demand Action” is a grassroots movement of Americans fighting for public safety measures that can protect people from gun violence. In New Jersey alone, there are a dozen such groups. The local chapter, which serves Camden, Gloucester and southern Burlington counties, has worked diligently to raise awareness about this issue in Haddonfield. 

MDA was founded in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy by a single mother of five, Shannon Watts. She created its original Facebook page, and since then, the organization has grown into a movement of 6 million people and has established a chapter in every state.

Along with Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Students Demand Action and the Everytown Survivor Network, it is part of Everytown for Gun Safety, which boasts than 5 million supporters and more than 350,000 donors. 

Nuckols has been involved with MDA since 2015, relating that her tipping points arrived via the Emanuel AME Church shooting in Charleston, S.C., as well as her son telling her about a lockdown drill they participated in at school not too long after. 

There’s one thing Nuckols and Lackpour want to make clear to frame their volunteerism, in the hopes that all concerned citizens heed their call: They’re not looking to take away your guns. 

“We are a nonpartisan organization that supports the Second Amendment, but which recognizes that constitutional right comes with responsibility to keep our community safe. We support ‘common-sense’ legislation that can create the foundations for safer communities. Ultimately, all of our education efforts and all our public-awareness campaigns go towards building that,” Nuckols explained. 

Because the aims of “Moms Demand Action” are not political, both Nuckols and Lackpour stressed their volunteer base is multi-faceted: Democrats, Republicans, gun owners and those who would never handle a firearm, adults with children and those without are all linked together for a common cause. 

“Let’s talk about gun violence the same way Mothers Against Drunk Driving talked about drunk driving or the way other groups talked about wearing seat belts. If you have a firearm, how do you store it? Is it locked and is the ammunition separate? Basic safety things and a conversation that helps families or anyone who cares for children, to keep them safe,” Lackpour said. 

In South Jersey, the Garden State and beyond, MDA urges the public to participate in “Wear Orange Weekend,” from June 7-9. Donning the bright hue is intended to send a powerful gun-safety message not only to elected officials but also to family, friends, and neighbors. 

Lackpour said “Wear Orange” is intended to honor survivors and deceased persons due to gun violence. The campaign started in 2013 due to the death of Hadiya Pendleton, who was shot and killed in Chicago shortly after she performed at President Obama’s second inauguration. 

MDA volunteers will decorate Kings Highway with orange ribbons and invite business owners to turn their storefronts orange. Last summer, the group received a second-place award in Haddonfield’s Fourth of July Parade. In March, it received the Camden County Freeholder’s Community Award for its work in fighting for public safety measures. 

“It’s a color for awareness because it also means safety. We started doing ‘Wear Orange’ in town a couple years ago and it slowly been gaining steam each year. We partnered with almost 90 businesses in town last year, who put up ribbons in their stores, gave them away, in some cases they decorated their windows orange,” Lackpour added. 

On Saturday, June 8, Haddonfield moms will join other South Jersey volunteers and survivors for a family-friendly “Wear Orange” gathering, featuring music, food, speakers and a peace walk down to the waterfront, at Roosevelt Plaza Park in Camden, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For more information about Moms’ local chapter, find it on Facebook @MomsDemandActionNewJersey, or contact Nuckols at shani.sjmoms@gmail.com and Lackpour at amy.sjmoms@gmail.com.