With the annual Gun Violence Awareness Day approaching on June 4, activists are hopeful the current Democratic leadership in Washington DC will bring gun regulation reform.
“I think we have right now the strongest chance that we have had in a very long time for meaningful gun legislation,” said Wendy Malloy, Florida state lead for Moms Demand Action, during WMNF’s MidPoint Thursday show on May 27 hosted by Shelley Reback and Janet Scherberger. Moms Demand Action is a non-profit organization that focuses on common sense gun laws. Malloy said the recent executive order issued by President Joe Biden is setting the right tone.
“We were thrilled with the executive order. The measures that [Biden] put in place are meaningful and are a good first step, certainly not all that can be done,” Malloy said. “We need, and I think Biden would admit this as well, we need legislation to back up the executive orders.”
The order increased funding for violence interrupters like Gideon’s Army in Nashville, which is made up of trained volunteers who work to de-escalate conflicts in their neighborhoods. The executive order also included the promise of a published model of red flag laws for states.
Red flag laws allow families and law enforcement officers, with the help of a judge, to confiscate a person’s firearm or temporarily suspend their ability to purchase a gun.
Data shows that 54% of mass shootings and 90% of school shootings involve perpetrators who showed warning signs prior to the event, Malloy said. Reback pointed out that in Florida, over the past two years, red flag laws have been used 3,400 times and hundreds of guns have been confiscated. In other states, like Indiana and Connecticut, red flag laws have significantly decreased suicide rates.
The connection between mental health and gun violence have prompted some law enforcement agencies to include a mental health team in response to some 9-1-1 calls. Police reform measures have also focused on efforts to train all officers to de-escalate situations to decrease police brutality and violence. Specifically in St. Petersburg, the police are devoting funds to put more social workers on the street to increase de-escalation versus provoking violence.
Meanwhile, Malloy noted, businesses are taking steps to fight against armed violence. Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart in recent years started rolling back sales of guns and ammunition, and other stores have forbidden open carry even in states that allow it.
Acknowledging that gun violence leaves behind traumatized survivors, Crystal Turner, whose two children were killed in a shooting, told the WMNF hosts that victim support networks can help both victims and witnesses.
Victim assistance enables fellow survivors to act as a support system for families going through the legal portion of a gun violence case. Witness assistance works to ensure that witnesses will be protected from possible perpetrators if they choose to testify. Moms Demand Action offers a support network for victims of gun violence that can be accessed by texting READY to 64433 or visiting everytown.org and momsdemandaction.org.
In response to an email to the hosts asking if the root of the problem was guns or unhappy people, Scherberger placed the blame on the flood of guns in the United States.
Turner added that the flood is all about fear.
“Fear brings out something in all of us where we then become defensive, and we feel like we have to protect ourselves,” she said. “Often times guns have been that one object that makes us feel a little more safe and secure.”
But people often don’t understand what it means to own a gun.
“If we haven’t equipped those who live in our households with the proper training in using a gun then we make them susceptible [to] unintentional shootings,” Turner said.
Friday, June 4, is Gun Violence Awareness Day. You can show your support by wearing orange and checking out the downtown Tampa buildings and Curtis Hixon park fountains awash in orange lights. Moms Demand Action will be hosting a Zoom to discuss the significance of wearing orange and spotlight community partners working to end gun violence.
To get involved, visit wearorange.org for the Zoom link and more details.