Reducing Gun Violence, One Bell at a Time
One grassroots group appears re-energized as they fight for stricter gun control laws. Find out why.
Saturday morning nationwide, Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America hosted Break the Silence events in almost every state marking the one year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. In Winston-Salem, about 50 people gathered in Green Street United Methodist Church to remember the victims of that tragedy. Last year on December 14, 20-year-old Adam Lanza walked into the elementary school and used a semi-automatic rifle to kill 20 first graders and 6 adult staff members in Newtown, Connecticut. Shortly after the mass shooting, mothers and concerned citizens formed Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America chapters in almost every state. Their goal is to pressure federal and state legislatures to enact stricter gun control laws. "Of all ages of youth, it’s estimated that over 200 youth under the age of 13 have died this year from gun violence,” says Brinda Sousley. She is the group’s Triad Ambassador. Nationwide, Mom’s Demand hosted 50 Break the Silence events like this one at Green Street Church. Sousley says one way to reduce gun violence and save more children is to make it harder for people to get guns. Recently in the Piedmont, there have been several incidents of youth injured as a result of young people easily getting a gun. Last month in Randolph County, a three year old boy shot a three year old girl with a .22 caliber rifle while they played in their home. The rifle belonged to the boy's father.Corina Fardin agrees getting a gun should be more difficult. During the Green Street event, she sits in a back pew holding her 6-month-old son Wyatt. He flashes a toothless grin at anyone who will connect with his big dark eyes. Fardin’s other son, Benjamin, plays with Play-Do balls at her feet. He’s almost four.“He’s in pre-school and he’ll start kindergarten in two years," says Fardin. "So we’re looking at all of the options and one of the options is security, what kind of security system do you have.” Fardin supports an individual's right to own guns. But not in public places. “I would like to go out in public venues and not fear there’s going to be an accident," says Fardin. She recalls the accident at Staples when a mother wrestled her firearm from her toddler and it went off.
David Lerner believes more guns in the public will only make public places more dangerous. Last semester, he taught 8th grade in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School system. “I’ve had to worry about and wonder everyday if I was safe and if my students were safe," explains Lerner. "I don’t want anybody in a public building to ever have to worry whether they are safe and if they will be able to make it home that day.”
Recently, gun violence changed everything for 24-year-old Johnny Collins. Now he describes himself as an activist for stricter gun control laws. “A couple of months ago, we did a stop the violence march in Winston-Salem," says Collins. "One of the guys with us got killed through gun violence. If it happened to him, it could happen to me. So I need to do something to make sure it never happens again.”Several people spoke during the Green Street event, including City Councilman Dan Besse. He says fewer mass shootings and other gun incidents will occur if two things change in every U.S. community. “You have to change the availability of these weapons on the street. That can only be done at a national level." explains Besse. "What’s blocking progress on that front is the assumption that you can’t go any place without a gun and be safe.”
Upon entering Green Street United Methodist Church, everyone picked up a silver jingle bell on a black rope. Just after 9:30, they and others across the country attending similar events, rang their bells marking when the Sandy Hook shooting occurred. Sousley hopes this will encourage people to speak out against gun violence. “I want people to do what they’re good at. If they want to write letters, write letters. If they want to go to their legislator’s office, do that. If they want to attend rallies with us, fine. Just stay in the loop, stay in communication, know that we are a community and we’re going to fight this.”
The program ended with the lighting of an amnesty candle. Then two members of the Winston-Salem group, Citizens for a Safe Society, read 694 names of people killed this year in gun violence in the United States from November 22 through December 13. Four of the victims lived in the Piedmont.