On Wear Orange Day, we must focus on gun violence in all its forms
Five years ago, 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton and her friends were seeking shelter from the rain when they were gunned down in a Chicago park. Two of her friends were shot and injured; Hadiya was killed. The teenager, who was a talented drum majorette, had taken part in President Obama’s inauguration just one week before.
Hadiya was an innocent victim of everyday gun violence — the type that plagues communities across the country. In response to her senseless death, Hadiya’s friends and family encouraged people to take a stand against gun violence by wearing orange on her birthday — June 2.
This weekend, we expect to see more orange-clad gun violence prevention advocates than ever before. Following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, we have witnessed unprecedented grassroots enthusiasm for gun violence prevention.
In the last three and a half months, our movement has grown exponentially. Millions across the country marched during the March for Our Lives. The media has covered gun violence almost daily. Politicians and businesses have cut ties with the National Rifle Association (NRA). Change is happening. But while it is tempting to focus on these highly visible shifts and the shootings that dominate the headlines, as we wear orange this weekend, we must remember Hadiya. We must remember that stopping gun violence isn’t only about preventing high-profile mass shootings. It is about stopping gun violence in all its forms.
This weekend, we must wear orange for Hadiya. We must wear orange for the 96 people who die from gun violence each day. We must wear orange to acknowledge that gun violence comes in many different forms — from gun suicide to police brutality to domestic violence to unintentional shootings to daily gun violence in neighborhoods across the country.
Contrary to what the cynics and the NRA may say, there are laws that can prevent different types of gun violence. Extreme risk laws can prevent suicides. Limits on assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and bump stocks can prevent mass shootings. Child access laws can prevent unintentional gun deaths among children. Stronger trafficking laws and permit-to-purchase policies can prevent everyday gun violence. Laws that disarm domestic abusers can keep women safe.
No one deserves to die at the end of a gun. Hadiya and her friends weren’t “in the wrong place at the wrong time” — they were right where they should have been. They were in a park. They were seeking shelter from the rain after school. They should have been safe. We could have done more to keep them safe. Hadiya’s death — and the 38,000 gun deaths each year — are on us. They are on our legislators.
This weekend, as we honor Hadiya’s life and legacy, we must raise our voices and wear orange. We must send a message: we will not accept this. We must tell our legislators that all gun violence deserves our attention, and we must pursue all possible solutions to this national epidemic.