7 years ago today a mentally ill student opened fire at Virginia Tech and killed 32 students and wounded 17 others. Over 3 years ago on January 11, 2011 another mentally ill young man fired his gun here in Tucson, Arizona and killed 6 innocent people, and wounded 13 others. Some of those 13 (Pam Simon, Suzi Hileman, Mary Reed) were at a press conference today in downtown Tucson announcing the launch of a new organization “Everytown for Gun Safety” to lobby for common sense legislation on all levels of government, especially Congress.
Also attending today were Emily Nottingham, mother of the late Gabe Zimmerman (Congressional aide killed on 1/8/11), Roxanna Green, mother of the late Christina Taylor-Green (killed on 1/8/11), and Daniel Hernandez Jr. and Patricia Maisch – both heroes on that fateful day at the Safeway in NW Tucson where the shooting occurred.
Pam Simon (fomer outreach worker for Congressmember Giffords) welcomed the crowd of about 75 people at El Presidio Park, and served as MC for the press conference hosted by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, Arizonans for Gun Safety – Tucson chapter, and Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Also present was Don Jorgensen, Chair of Pima County Democratic Party.
First, Rabbi Stephanie Aaron eloquently spoke about “life before it was shattered by a gun” regarding President John F. Kennedy as well as her friend Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who was “doing the job she loved” when she was shot and injured. The Rabbi asked if anyone is prepared for such gun violence, but that everyone draws strength “held and upheld by common remembrances”. She ended by sharing and praying that “We are Everytown”, that “Tucson was Everytown”.
Survivor Pam Simon spoke about her recovery after the mass shooting on January 8, 2011 and her admiration for the other survivors, but her disappointment that the U.S. Senate voted against gun background checks last year. She said that this new group “Everytown” respects the 2nd Amendment, but that Americans need to advocate for common sense gun laws, to do more to protect innocent people, to “make America safer”.
Jocelyn Strauss, regional mgr. for Moms Demand Action, and a mother of 2 young children, said that “mothers need to raise their voices against the gun lobby”, esp. in Arizona which ranks 13 in the highest gun homicides against women. She started her efforts with MDA after the Sandy Hook shooting that killed 20 children.
Ward 3 Councilmember Karin Uhlich spoke of the prevalence of gun violence in small and large cities, that this issue is sadly a “matter of life and death”. She urged the crowd to address the “real question – has Congress taken action yet?”
Mary Reed, survivor of 1/8/11 Tucson shooting spoke of how she was shot 3x and had shielded her young daughter from the gunman. She said she herself owns and shoots guns, and urges that background checks be done. She hopes to that their efforts are “going to change Everytown” in America.
Daniel Garcia, a Tucson gun owner said that “guns need to be regulated” due to “uncontrolled violence by guns in the U.S.”, that gun homicides in the Hispanic community were 2x that of non-Hispanics. He urged common sense gun legislation, more background checks, tighter concealed weapons laws, not programs that give out shotguns in southside neighborhoods.
Rev. David Wilkinson of St. Francis UMC was the final speaker who said that Dads Demand Action too, plus grandmoms, granddads, Republicans, Independents, Democrats – that All Demand Action, including the spirits of those six who died on Jan. 8, 2011 (through their “angelic presence”). He said that the opposite of love is not hate, but fear, that Americans need to “let go of fear” and turn the “power of love into action.” He urged those present not to “go in peace” as he says in church, but to “go forth agitated, talking, acting, changing our world… to finally say we’re proud to be Arizonans.”
This was a call to action, so please go to the www.Everytown.org website or their FB page, sign up and pledge to do what you can to advocate for gun safety in America. Every day 86 Americans are killed by a gun…some in domestic violence situations, on school campuses, by suicide. Years ago one of my cousin-in-laws did get a gun and shoot himself in the chest at his sister’s house, because his wife (my cousin) was leaving him, and their 2 kids.
Pam Simon ended the press conference by saying that Tucsonans should meet there at El Presidio Park next year on the same day, to see what difference has made in a year.
Mission of Everytown:
Everytown is a movement of Americans working together to end gun violence and build safer communities. Gun violence touches every town in America. For too long, change has been thwarted by the Washington gun lobby and by leaders who refuse to take common-sense steps that will save lives.
But something is changing. More than 1.5 million mayors, moms, cops, teachers, survivors, gun owners, and everyday Americans have come together to make their own communities safer. Together, we are fighting for the changes that we know will save lives.
Everytown starts with you, and it starts in your town.