Newtown residents and others eager to support the cause joined a walk and rally in Newtown on Friday, June 2nd, for National Gun Violence Prevention Day. Participants wore orange, the color hunters wear for protection to warn others of their presence, according to the tradition started by the founders of this day, the friends of Hadiya Pendleton. Hadiya was killed by a stray bullet at the age of 15 a week after she performed at President Barrack Obama’s 2nd inauguration. As a community that has suffered from the effects of gun violence, Newtown is a proud participant in this national movement. Co-sponsors of the event included Moms Demand Action, the Brady Campaign, the Newtown Action Alliance, the Greenwich Council Against Gun Violence, the Enough Campaign, and CT Against Gun Violence, with a speaker from Sandy Hook Promise present as well. As volunteers marched from Fairfield Hills to the Edmond Town Hall (and passed by a building home to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the second largest gun lobby in America, in the process), people gathered on their lawns to cheer and drivers passing by offered honks or thumbs-up.
The walk culminated in a series of speeches from people who had lost children, parents, and siblings to gun violence. Other speakers included organizers of the event Abby Clements and Po Murray, members of the Junior Newtown Action Alliance, Senator Richard Blumenthal, and the keynote speaker, actress Melissa Joan Hart, who emphasized the presence of bipartisan support for gun violence prevention. These speeches touched on gun violence’s disproportionate effect on women, racial minorities, and members of the LBTQ+ community. One focus of this year’s event was protesting Federally Mandated Conceal Carry Reciprocity. The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 currently has 193 co-sponsors in Congress and would force all states to allow out-of-state visitors to act according to their home state’s concealed carry weapon permits, even if those permits are less restrictive than those of the state they are visiting.
When I asked one participant, Leanne Harpin, why she chose to join this event, she stated that she feels the cause of common sense gun control is important, especially since measures like background checks are supported by more than 75% of the country (including many gun owners). Ms. Harpin expressed frustration that government representatives had been “bought out” by gun lobbyist groups. Judging by responses to speakers and expressive pins and signs, many at the event shared this sentiment and focused on the grass roots nature of their movement. Ms. Harpin also expressed her frustration with those who offered “thoughts and prayers” in the wake of a tragedy but were unwilling to prevent another such event by sharing a Bible quote from James 2:17 – “Faith by itself, it is not complemented by action, is dead.”
The Wear Orange walk and rally for National Gun Violence Prevention Day was successful in that it drew people from town and surrounding areas together to reaffirm their commitment to a cause dear to their hearts. However, with an average of 93 Americans dying by gun violence every day, there is a long way to go. Much more constructive conversation and dedicated action is needed to work out and implement a comprehensive solution to this public health crisis. For now, June 2nd is an important opportunity for Newtown residents to, as the Newtown Action Alliance puts it, Honor with Action.