Going Public: Moms Demand Action, City Leaders And Local Law Enforcement Discuss Gun Violence
June 4th marked National Gun Violence Awareness Day. The following day, June 5th was proclaimed ‘Gun Violence Awareness Day’ for the City of Cape Girardeau by Mayor Bob Fox at a City council meeting earlier in the month, an award proposed by the Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America Organization.
Moms Demand Action is a national organization, also represented by state and county specific groups.
The groups works to pass stronger gun laws and close loopholes that jeopardize personal and public safety by working within communities and business leaders to encourage a culture of responsible gun ownership.
The recent proclamation would be one of multiple successes achieved by the local organization. Another proclamation was signed by the Mayor at the City council meeting February 2020, designating February first through the seventh as ‘Gun Violence Survivor Week’, the same week as the national designation.
Moms Demand Action member Leslie Washington explains that both the national and local date designations are inspired by the death of Hadiya Pendleton who was shot and killed in Chicago in 2013 after marching in President Obama’s second inaugural parade.
Earlier in June, the group also recognized ‘Wear Orange Week’ from June 4th-6th. The color orange is representative of Hadiya Pendleton's favorite color, and a color which hunters wear for high visibility.
The event was created "to honor the lives stolen or forever changed by gun violence through hosting virtual media engagement seminars by volunteers across the nation."
Moms Demand Action member Katherine Langenfeld explains that the recent proclamations are able to spread awareness of the issue throughout the community, but additional campaigns like 'Wear Orange Week' create a nationwide outlet for those who are directly impacted by gun violence to celebrate the personal memories of their loved ones.
“Gun violence kills so many people, around 100 every day. Every death is tragic, it leaves behind parents, siblings, people who are going to mourn that lost person, and so it's important that we remember the victims and survivors, and a way to do that is through these campaigns.”
Moms Demand Action member Leslie Washington explains that the proclamations spread communal awareness that gun violence does not only occur in big cities like Chicago, but in rural communities as well.
“For ours in Missouri, it is important to get our community partners involved as much as possible so they know there is an organization here to help in the Cape, and that we are trying to spread the message and get the knowledge out there,” said Washington. “That's a reason I use my voice on various platforms, if I'm able to talk about it and share my story and one or two people out of a crowd hear my story, then I’ve completed my assignment,” said Washington.
Langenfeld explained that the Mayor’s involvement in the discussion is a way to locally recognize and enforce the nationwide issue.
“It makes our campaign much more evident to people in our community, it validates our efforts,” said Langenfeld
Mayor Bob Fox expressed his awareness of the value his platform has for supporting issues like these.
“People think when I talk, and when I talk, I say what I mean, and I mean what I say, and any time an organization has something like this that they bring up for the betterment of the safety of the community, it's a great thing,” said Fox. “I think it's something that gets it out there for the public, it’s had a positive impact, and I think we have seen a reduction in gun violence.”
Fox mentioned that organizations like these are a greater piece of what eventually inspires a chain reaction of creating additional local groups determined to keep their neighborhoods and communities safe in other ways.
Sergeant Joey Hann from the City of Cape Girardeau Police Department explained that civic groups like Moms Demand Action, and public figures like Mayor Fox are a crucial part of reenforcing the goals of law enforcement.
“These groups, they do a really good job of making the community aware that the issue exists and trying to educate people on ways to maybe curb, reduce and someday hopefully eliminate gun violence,” said Hann. “Any time you have the political backing like our Mayor and council on board aggressively reducing gun violence also, it helps us as a department to support our mission.”
Hann said that recent proclamations and date designations are effective ways to help promote safety within the community and a way to connect with others impacted by gun violence.
“If it's anything that makes somebody read an article, find personal attachment to something, if it's anything that helps change behaviors,--I mean, obviously, the idea of peace within our community is what I’m always hoping for,” said Hann. “Awareness and education is always a wonderful thing, I'm glad that we have this proclamation, I'm glad that it's been a five year tradition for us now.”
Hann mentioned that while law enforcement, political figures, and organizations can help spread awareness to reduce local gun violence, it is also every individual’s responsibility to contribute to the mission for the betterment of their community.
“Personal responsibility starts in our own neighborhoods and in our own households. You know, most of the violence that we've had here has been family members,” said Hann. “So, it's their job to be active and to help curb that in their own household before it spreads into violence in the community.”
The deliberation of gun rights and responsibilities have been revisited most recently in Missouri news with the signing of House Bill 85.
On Saturday, June 12th, Governor Mike Parson signed HB 85, declaring that Missouri law enforcement officials no longer have to execute federal gun laws.
The bill invalidates all past, present and future gun laws in the state, including taxing, tracking and registration of guns. The measure also allows local police departments to be sued and fined $50,000 for every violation.
The bill, also referred to as the "Second Amendment Preservation Act", is sponsored by Republican Jered Taylor of Christian County, who described it as a response to federal overreach.
“The feds use us. They rely on us to enforce their laws. Look at medical marijuana in the state of Missouri, this is exactly what we do with that. It’s exactly what sanctuary cities use," said Taylor.
House minority leader Crystal Quade of Springfield called the bill a “radical, dangerous and obviously unconstitutional” way around federal gun laws.
The amendment is likely to face challenges in court.