Nationwide, OFA volunteers turnout for Newtown anniversary vigils

By Katie Robbins, OFA Regional Organizing Manager

“When we hear our friends and pundits say, “If nothing changed after Sandy Hook, change will never happen,” we must challenge them. We must challenge that cynical mindset, as cynicism is the enemy of progress. Our movement is growing.” — Josh Horowitz, Executive Director for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

And that’s exactly what OFA organizers are doing: Fighting cynicism and growing our movement.

Last week (December 14) marked the five year anniversary of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Since then, more than 500,000 Americans have been killed or injured by gun violence. It’s hard to even imagine how many more have been touched by that violence in some way — family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues.

This year, to commemorate the anniversary and the thousands of victims of gun violence since then, OFA organizers partnered with organizations like the Newtown Action Alliance to hold candlelight vigils across the country. In the wake of the most recent mass shootings, some of the largest and deadliest in modern U.S. history, these were emotional reminders that our communities will not forget the victims and we will not give up the fight for a better, safer future for all Americans.

I just wanted to thank everyone who hosted or participated in these efforts. Not only did these vigils give us the space to remember all the lives that have been lost to gun violence, but it was a reminder that we have the power to hold our elected officials accountable to pass common sense gun safety laws. Check out some highlights below and read more about the coalition’s efforts:

In Palatine, IL, the Northwest Suburbs chapter of OFA Illinois helped coordinate an interfaith vigil, where more than 100 people turned out to hear speakers from organizations representing Sikh, Muslim, Bahai, Christian and Jewish faith communities in addition to those working on gun violence prevention and local civic action.

Speakers & volunteers in Palatine, IL. Photo by Kamaljit Singh Virdi.

All the way out in Maui, the OFA Hawaii chapter partnership with Moms Demand Action to host a Sandy Hook vigil with more than 20 folks dropping by to say “Mahalo.” Check out this article highlighting their work.

In Mother Lode, California, one of our newest groups hosted a vigil to remember the more than 150,000 Americans who have died in fatal shootings since Newtown. “We forget who the victims of gun violence are and need to be reminded sometimes,” said Mary Anne Schmidt, of Tuolumne.

In the Grand Canyon State, OFA Arizona team members met with members of the Giffords PAC and a number of other stakeholders in AZ including former U.S. Representative Ron Barber, Allie Bones (CEO of the AZ Coalition for Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence), Pam Simon (former Giffords’ staff member injured in the 1/8/11 shooting), Mike Sylva (Chief of Staff for the Tucson Police Department, Arizona state senator David Bradley, as well as the Communications Director for the Tucson Mayor’s Office.

At St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Washington, DC, OFA volunteers partnered with groups like the Newtown Action Alliance, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Everytown Survivor Network, and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America to shine a light on the devastating impact of violence and recommit efforts to ending that violence.

The OFA East Bay (California) and OFA Dayton (Ohio) teams partnered with their local faith institutions to hold vigils for “Honoring the Innocents” to pay homage the victims of Sandy Hook and assemble gift baskets for family members of homicide victims.

And in New York, several hundred people filled the Rutgers Presbyterian Church in Manhattan at a vigil sponsored by Moms Demand Action and dozens of organizations, including OFA New York.

This fight, this struggle to protect our communities from gun violence, is nowhere near over. And OFA volunteers will continue standing up, speaking out, knocking on doors, starting conversations, organizing.

Join us and start speaking out for common sense gun regulations today.

Originally published at