Law enforcement, community leaders and residents gathered together Thursday to raise an orange flag over Peace and Justice Plaza in honor of gun-violence victims and their families.
The second annual Gun Violence Awareness Day on East Franklin Street was among more than 150 events held nationwide. The campaign is sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Everytown For Gun Safety.
Law enforcement is the front line against gun violence, said Emily Brewer, organizer for the nonprofit group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense.
“It is terrifying what they have to face when the law is guns everywhere all the time for everyone,” Brewer said. “By wearing orange today, you are standing up and you are showing America that Chapel Hill is not going to just sit around while that happens. We are going to stand up for common-sense gun legislation, universal background checks. We are going to start this conversation, and we are not going to be bullied by the NRA.”
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Chapel Hill and Carrboro leaders passed resolutions this year supporting the campaign, and more than 45 skylines across the country, including in downtown Durham, were expected to turn orange Thursday night. Carrboro also hung orange flags in front of its Town Hall.
The color orange is how hunters identify themselves in the woods, officials said, and it’s the color of responsible gun ownership.
“In wearing orange today, Americans raise awareness about gun violence,” Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle read from a proclamation, and “renew our commitment against gun violence and pledge to do all we can to keep firearms out of the wrong hands and encourage responsible gun ownership to help keep our children safe.”
The Wear Orange campaign started to honor Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old Chicago high school student shot to death just weeks after marching in President Obama’s inauguration parade in 2013. She would have celebrated her 19th birthday Thursday.
More than 91 Americans are killed every day by gun violence and hundreds injured, Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said. But while 92 percent of Americans support background checks, only some states require them for all gun purchases, including from private sellers.
“In our own community, we had Maleah Williams shot and killed on Christmas Day while she was out playing in the neighborhood yard – on Christmas Day, in a senseless act,” Hemminger said. “I went to that funeral. I spoke to that family. What do you say to someone, a 1-year-old killed?”
“We also had our three Muslim students here, killed in senseless violence. It’s gut-wrenching,” she said.
Durham resident Ann Ringland and Chris Carlson, of Chapel Hill, attended the rally to support a safer world for their grandchildren.
Her husband was a gun collector, Ringland said, and she used to go to target practice with her father. The gun violence event is not a fringe movement, she said, but a push to have sensible laws, better background checks and limits on the type of guns and number of clips that a person can buy.
“I would like to see a much safer environment,” Carlson said. “It’s ridiculous in this country that we have so many guns.”