VIRGINIA BEACH — There are numbers that are almost too terrible to be believed: On average, every day in the United States, 96 people are killed in gun violence, while there are nearly 13,000 gun homicides each year.
Mayor Louis Jones and the City of Virginia Beach proclaimed Friday, June 1 “National Gun Violence Awareness Day,” while Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America hosted a “Wear Orange” event at the Thalia Methodist Church.
“Orange is the color hunters wear in the woods to say `Don’t shoot,” said Sibel Galindez, Hampton Roads legislative lead for the group and organizer of the event, along with Leigh Anne Woodside, Hampton Roads group lead, Marian Kiehl-Kearney, Hampton Roads elections lead, and Melanie Cornelisse, Chesapeake lead.
Orange, Galindez said, was also the favorite color of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, a Chicago high school student who on Jan. 29, 2013, was shot to death just a week after she performed at an event during the second inauguration of President Barack Obama.
Drew Lumpkin, regional director for U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, was in attendance and read a letter from the Virginia Democrat.
“We must do more than just offer thoughts and prayers,” Warner wrote in the letter. “While no single law will end gun violence, we must do more.”
Toolen Meyer, a junior at Princess Anne High School also addressed those assembled and spoke of the fear and danger she and her fellow students felt in the days that followed the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen people were killed in that mass shooting — including 14 students.
“I refused to feel imperiled … but the possibility of danger never left my mind,” she said.
Meyer called for changes in gun laws.
“Now, many people would say that these perpetrators of gun violence are the issue, that it’s not the weapon that kills but the person holding it. But I guarantee that 17 people can’t be killed in approximately 6 minutes using one’s fists.”
She was joined by about two dozen other high school students at the Wear Orange event.
Also in attendance was 85th District Del. Cheryl Turpin, who represents part of Virginia Beach. She said during the last legislative session some 70 “common sense” gun bills came in front of the Virginia House and Senate. Many did not get assigned, while the rest died in committee without any action being taken.
Democratic delegates had formed a “Safe Virginia Initiative” in response to what Turpin said were shortcomings in the Republican-led “Select Committee on Schools Safety,” which won’t include conversations about gun control.
“We’re trying to get information about what the public is concerned about,” she said, adding that a public meeting of the group is coming to Hampton Roads, but probably not until September or October.
Woodside said events like this are steady and growing.
“Events like Wear Orange that support gun violence awareness are so important to this movement in part because it brings together the community of survivors and activists and perhaps more importantly it shows the growing support within the community at large for common sense guns safety reform,” she said.