The Nonviolence Institute hosted a press conference on Friday, June 3, 2022, Gun Violence Awareness Day. Also known as the Wear Orange Campaign, it has become a nationally recognized day to focus attention on the gun violence epidemic.
Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline headlined the event and apologized to the local students in attendance for the failure of the country to pass common-sense gun safety reforms. "Guns have become the leading cause of death of American kids, let that sink in," Cicilline said. "And to the young people that are hear today, first thank you for being here and I am very sorry that we have not managed to address the gun violence crisis in this country, that you even have to think about issues like this when you are in school. But we are committed to doing something about it." He went on to discuss several pieces of legislation that the U.S. House are committed to passing, including H.R.7910 - Protecting Our Kids Act, of which he is a co-sponsor.
NVI Executive Director Cedric Huntley called for congressional and state lawmakers to pass sensible safety reforms to help curb the senseless gun violence that plagues communities throughout the nation, "There continues to be incidents of targeted hatred directed towards innocent people trying to live their lives. Our children, elderly, teachers in schools, and you, have the right to learn, grocery shop, take a walk in the park, go to a concert, attend church, and not have to worry about being gunned down. We all have the right to come home to our families."
Gem Barros, a gun violence survivor and Nonviolence Trainer at the Institute, spoke of the people to pull together to help pass life-saving gun safety reforms so that Rhode Island does not experience a mass shooting. She spoke of her daughter Shemeeka who was gunned down in 2012, pointing to a photo button on her sweater, "We have to stand strong together, you do not want to be a mother like me. I wear my daughter on my shirt, she's forever in my heart. Don't let this be your child."
Pastor Sherrod Jones, Victim Advocate at the Institute and gun violence survivor, described the physical and emotional effects of being shot and the decision to change, including his work in the church over the last 17 years, "I've probably preached over 15 funerals over men that were killed, over gun violence." He also spoke of his work with NVI, being part of a team that is "really making a difference."
Sydney Montstream-Quas, Board Chair of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence (RICAGV) and a gun violence survivor, spoke of the relentless drum of shattered communities, "I am sure that everyone here is tired of the continuing carnage, the horrifying massacres, the community violence, and the accompanying PTSD, the suicides, the unintentional shootings, the traumatic injuries, the gun threats ... We must take action to prevent other families from experiencing that shattering loss and trauma that occurs when you lose a loved one to gun violence."
The final speaker was Pam Lauria, a volunteer working with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, made clear that gun violence is a national emergency and is also preventable, "Everyday more than 100 Americans are gunned-down and more than 200 are shot and wounded. Every day. Gun Violence is the leading cause of death of children and adolescents in America. This is not and should not be tolerable."
We can all make a difference and together we will.
The Nonviolence Institute stands with the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence, Moms Demand Action, It’s On Us, the Sandra Bornstein Holocaust Education Center, PRIDE, the Center for Southeast Asians, the Rhode Island Commission on Prejudice and Bias, the NAACP, and other organizations. We stand with our legislators, our law enforcement, and most of all the surviving victims and families.