NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – The Borough Council declared the first Friday of June as National Gun Violence Awareness Day at its Monday, June 10 meeting. Mayor Al Morgan read the proclamation recognizing the day honoring and remembering all victims and survivors of gun violence and calling for reduction of gun violence incidents. Two local gun violence awareness activists, Samantha Wolf and Arlene Vezza, attended the proclamation reading.
“Every day, 100 Americans are killed by gun violence and on average there are nearly 13,000 gun homicides every year. Americans are 25 times more likely to be killed with guns than people in other high-income countries,” the proclamation read. Furthermore, the “support for the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens goes hand-in-hand with keeping guns away from people with dangerous histories,” Morgan read. The proclamation also noted that mayors and law enforcement officers familiar with their communities understand how to keep their citizens safe.
Among the gun violence victims is Hadiya Pendleton, a teenager who marched in President Obama’s second inaugural parade in January 2013. She was shot and killed just weeks later. The idea of wearing orange was inspired by a group of Hadiya’s friends who asked her classmates to commemorate her life by wearing orange, the color that hunters wear to announce themselves to other hunters in the woods. The color also symbolizes the value of human life. She would have turned 22 this year.
“There have been 165 mass shootings in US so far in 2019, and sadly those are usually the only shootings that make the news,” Vezza said. The Virginia Beach incident was the latest mass shooting. But lives are lost in smaller scale incidents as well, for example a 4-year old boy in Arkansas gained access to a gun and accidently shot himself in the head. “He did not survive,” she said. Furthermore, another person was shot in Trenton this past weekend and a Columbine shooting survivor killed himself recently. Gun violence doesn’t just affect immediate victims, the pain and trauma continue for years to come, she noted.
Vezza asked for a moment of silence for victims of mass shootings, and for those victims “we never hear of”. If we stand one minute for silence for every person who was killed by guns this year, we would have to remain silent for 302 hours, almost two weeks of silence, and we are only half way through the year, she pointed out.
While the silence can honor the victims and bring people together, it is important to speak out loudly against gun violence. “That’s why we are here today,” Vezza said. She noted that “Moms Demand Action” activists across the country are attending council meetings to speak out loudly against gun violence. They are organizing community events and encouraging everyone to wear orange during Gun Violence Awareness day to honor all victims. “We can end violence, but it is going to take you to stand up and speak up,” she said.