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Peoria's Mom's Demand Action chapter asks everyone to wear orange for National Gun Violence Day

Gun control advocacy groups rally with Democratic members of Congress outside the U.S. Capitol on May 26, 2022. Organized by Moms Demand Action, Everytown for Gun Safety, and Students Demand Action, the rally brought together members of Congress and gun violence survivors to demand gun safety legislation following mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas.
Chip Somodevilla
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Gun control advocacy groups rally with Democratic members of Congress outside the U.S. Capitol on May 26, 2022.

Recent shootings in Tulsa, Uvalde, Buffalo and elsewhere have many people feeling that something has to be done about gun violence.

With Friday being National Gun Violence Awareness Day, the Peoria branch of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense is encouraging the public to wear orange on Friday through Sunday to show support for people whose lives were taken or affected by gun violence. Orange is the national color for fighting against gun violence and standing alongside victims.

Peoria branch volunteer Shelly Kerker said the power of people working together is crucial if mass shootings are to be addressed on a communitywide level.

Kerker said incidents like the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, make her actively think about the safety of her own two kids.

“Especially with the recent happenings in Uvalde, I just think back to Sandy Hook, and that was even before I was a mother. That was 2012. I remember President Obama asking us, ‘Are we doing enough for our kids and our families?’ When you think really hard about it, no, we’re not," Kerker said.

Wear Orange weekend

Kerker said she and others in the community will be wearing orange throughout the weekend to demand a future free of gun violence. Wear Orange weekend began on June 2, 2015, after the death of Hadiya Pendleton. June 2, 2015, would have been her 18th birthday.

“It began with teenagers in Chicago wanting to honor their friend Hadiya after she was shot and killed. Today, wear orange honors Hadiya and more than 110 people shot and killed every day in the United States, as well as the hundreds more who are wounded,” Kerker said.

Erin Gatton is also a volunteer for the Peoria chapter of Mom's Demand Action for Gun Sense.

Gatton said the purpose of this weekend is spreading the message that gun violence could happen anywhere.

“During this weekend, the one thing that we’ve been saying is just ‘enough is enough,’ right? So, we just keep continuing to feel the devastation of everyone who gets involved in a senseless act of violence. It could be Buffalo. It could be Uvalde. Again, gun violence has forced its way into schools, and it’s just we have to do more than thoughts and prayers,” Gatton said.

Gatton said everyone has to have an open mind on how public establishments can be made safer.

“We all know that there’s not going to be just one answer. There’s a lot of stuff that comes into play when we talk about gun violence,” Gatton said. “You talk about behavior health. You talk about mental health. You talk about age. You talk about employees when they’re disgruntled. There’s just a lot of things.”

Gatton continued, “When we have this weekend, we just have to remember gun violence is not just mass shootings. Gun violence is suicide. Gun violence is mishandling.”

Gatton said from a personal standpoint as a citizen and a mother, she is hopeful that something will be done to better combat the prevalence of national shootings.

“I always hold that optimism, and I think that’s why when you see Moms Demand Action out there, you see the Peoria Community Against Violence. When you see other organizations that are trying to work towards peace in our communities, it is hopeful,” Gatton said.

For Kerker and Gatton on behalf of Mom’s Demand Action for Gun Sense, this weekend and other events are about honoring the victims and their families while simultaneously encouraging citizens to do the same.

“We’re experiencing a crisis, and we’re bearing the burden of it every day whether you live near it, or you don’t. So, we just can’t continue to forget about the people who have lost their lives to gun violence,” Gatton said.

Pew Research Center reported in 2020 that 45,222 people died from gun-related injuries in the U.S. The number of active shooter incidents only went up from the early 2000s to 2020, and recent shootings have not revealed signs that these numbers would go down.

“A lot of it has to do with guns, and a lot of it doesn’t have to do with guns,” Gatton said. “At the end of the day, we just want people to be aware that gun violence is not going to go away, and actions do need to be taken as best we can to make change for our kids and our future. I mean, that’s not fair, and it’s not way to live.”

Moms Demand Action held a blood drive from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday at the East Bluff community center, sending all donations to Texas.

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Jordan Mead is a reporting intern at WCBU. She joined the station in 2021.