It seems hardly a day goes by that we don’t hear about another incident of gun violence with killed or maimed innocent victims. June seems to be an unusually deadly month. That is why there are many anniversary dates and activities.
June 4 is National Gun Violence Awareness Day.
June 4-6 is Wear Orange weekend to honor 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton of Chicago, who was killed by a stray bullet in January 2013. Orange was Hadiya's favorite color. After her death, her friends asked people to stand up, speak out, and wear orange to raise awareness about gun violence. Since then, orange has been the defining color of the movement to prevent gun violence.
June is also the anniversary month of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Florida. The shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, happened in June, too.
Additionally, Black emancipation is observed on Juneteenth (June 19).
Gun violence affects our Black communities more than others. And June 21 is National ASK day, which asks everyone to check if there are unsecured guns in their homes where children might play.
There are events acknowledging these dates on the web pages and Facebook pages of Moms Demand Action, Brady, Protect Minnesota, and other gun-safety reform groups. You can participate by wearing orange for Hadiya and the hundreds of daily victims of gun violence. You can take action to prevent further gun violence by learning ways to keep guns away from children. Google “BeSMART” and “ASK to End Family Fire.”
We have a gun violence public health epidemic that is crying out for a solution. Gun deaths are at a two-decade high. The country is opening up after COVID-19 restrictions kept us home. With that opening has come more shootings.
Minneapolis was the site of one of the recent mass shootings that are traumatizing our communities: Two were shot dead and eight were injured outside of a downtown bar. One of the victims was to graduate from the University of St. Thomas the next day. His sister accepted his diploma for him in an emotional ceremony.
In Duluth, a 22-year-old man is dead from an apparent gunshot. A 17-year-old boy is the alleged shooter, even though 17-year-olds cannot legally purchase or own guns. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. The most important question we can ask is what was the source of the gun used. Stolen? Trafficked? Straw purchase? From a friend? Without the answer, we can’t begin to solve the problem.
It should not be normal for a mass shooting every week — or more frequently than every week. It is not normal for small children to be shot in the crossfire of bullets while they are jumping on a trampoline, riding in a car, or just going about their lives as were at least three children in the Twin Cities in the last few weeks.
Research indicates that secure gun-storage practices — including storing household guns locked, unloaded, or separate from ammunition — are associated with reduced rates of child firearm suicide. One study showed that households which locked up both firearms and ammunition had a 78% lower risk of self-inflicted firearm injuries among children and teenagers.
We advocate for safe gun storage and stronger gun laws, such as universal background checks and Extreme Risk Protection Orders, to reduce and prevent shootings. The vast majority of Americans and Minnesotans agree that stronger gun laws are needed to keep lethal weapons out of the hands of those who cannot handle the responsibility.
Working together, we can make this a safe summer with no gun violence.
Sarah Mikesell of Duluth is a volunteer for Moms Demand Action Minnesota. Joan Peterson and Mary Streufert are both of Duluth and are both members of the Northland Brady Chapter and the regional group of Protect Minnesota.