SOMERS POINT — The last straw for Janet Yunghans was the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, when 17 people were killed.
“I’ve always felt very strongly that we need sensible gun legislation in this county,” Yunghans said, but that particular shooting was what made her get out into the community to try to make a change. As a retired teacher, she said, going through active shooter drills was a terrifying experience.
“I just thought that it was horrifying that students had to practice sitting in a closet in case of an active shooter,” she said.
Yunghans, of Upper Township, joined Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America-Atlantic/Cape May County, a nonpartisan movement that advocates for stronger gun laws.
The group marched across the orange-lighted Howard S. Stainton Memorial Causeway Bridge from Somers Point to Ocean City on Saturday evening, wearing orange T-shirts, to raise awareness and fight for a future free of gun violence.
Yunghans, who said a friend of hers died by suicide using a gun, explained the group supports the Second Amendment, the constitutional right to bear arms, but there must be common sense gun laws — just like a requirement for a fishing permit.
Christine Piper founded the local chapter of Moms Demand Action in January, but she ahs been involved with the South Jersey chapter in Camden for two years, since 49 people were killed at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
The Egg Harbor City resident has LGBTQ family and friends, and they all could have been there, she said.
“I said, ‘Who is in Atlantic and Cape May counties that wants to do this with me?’” she said. “I couldn’t wait any longer.”
The march was a way to be visible in the community and to bring together like-minded people, Piper said.
“Especially in this area, what I found is that people aren’t vocal about their political stances,” said member Eva Smith, of Linwood. “Gun violence is often political, so it’s very intimidating to want to use your voice.”
Smith’s paternal aunt was shot by an abusive husband when she tried to leave him, Smith said, leaving her a paraplegic. But it was just common sense that got her into the group.
“Why would you not want to get involved?” she asked. “I’m a mom who wants sensible gun laws.”
Emily McGrath, an 18-year-old senior at Egg Harbor Township High School, said gun deaths are politicized — and they should be. McGrath organized the high school’s walkout on March 14 and the March for Our Lives on March 24.
“As a student, I feel the responsibility to speak up so my peers don’t have to experience what other people have,” she said. “We need gun-sense candidates.”