For Northfield’s gun violence awareness group, education is the key to action.
Friday and Saturday were National Gun Violence Awareness Days in Northfield, following a proclamation made at the June 4 City Council Meeting.
The measure passed after Susan Dunhaupt, leader of the Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America Northfield Chapter, spoke with Northfield City Councilor Clarice Grabau last summer about possibly issuing the proclamation.
In honor of these days, the local chapter of advocacy group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America held a community gathering on Bridge Square Saturday afternoon.
About 25 people attended the gathering, as part of a larger Wear Orange weekend with similar events planned nationwide. Orange is the chosen color of many gun violence awareness groups, a movement started in the memory of Hadiya Pendelton, who was killed at age 15 in Chicago weeks after performing at President Barack Obama’s inaugural parade in 2013.
The goal of Saturday’s gathering was to educate the public about the impact of gun violence in America — on average, 100 people are killed by gun violence each day, said Beth Hagemeister of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
Hagemeister, who attended Tuesday’s council meeting, the Wear Orange event was not so much political as it was educational.
She said she had a friend who had depressive episodes and used a gun to kill himself.
“People who have thoughts of suicide are three times as likely to go through with it if they have a gun in the house,” Hagemeister said.
To her, legislation needs to address the issue. She added that a survey has found most Minnesotans say they want to close gun purchase loopholes and enable more thorough background checks.
She spoke in favor of allowing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct studies on gun violence, something that Congress has not authorized.
Hagemeister stressed the group supports Second Amendment rights.
“We are not anti-gun,” she said. “We are anti-gun violence. We respect the Second Amendment. We believe respecting rights and protecting people go hand-in-hand.”
Northfield Mayor Rhonda Pownell read the city’s proclamation on gun violence awareness days.
“We, as a city council, as a city, renew our commitment to reduce 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,” Pownell said.
Pownell said last week the council has not taken a stance on potential gun-related legislation and wants only to raise awareness of gun violence and honor the memory of gun violence deaths and survivors.
The resolution the city passed included numerous U.S. gun violence statistics, including that 100 Americans are killed every day by gun violence and there are nearly 13,000 gun homicides every year. The resolution states Americans are 25 times more likely to be killed with guns than people in other high-income countries.
Lutheran minister and police chaplain Rolf Olson shared the story of his daughter Catherine, who was shot and killed by a 19-year-old while responding to a babysitting ad on Craigslist. Olson spoke of how the act of violence not only ended Catherine’s life, but also forever changed the lives of the parents, siblings and friends left behind.
“Frankly, gun violence corrupts all aspects of our lives,” Olson said. “The reality of gun violence is that it affects all of us… The trauma continues and the brokenness expands, but it doesn’t have to be this way.”
Mary Lewis Grow, co-founder of the gun violence awareness group now called Protect Minnesota, called for a need for legislative action against gun violence, including stronger background check laws. According to Grow, the majority of gun owners are in favor of stricter pre-purchase screening laws.
“I know a lot of gun owners. They want their families to be safe, too. They know how lethal guns can be, so one of our jobs is to crack the myth that the National Rifle Association speaks for all gun owners as a monolithic group,” Grow said.
In an email Wednesday, Councilor Grabau said she supported the proclamation.
“I believe awareness is the first step to reducing gun violence, which is something we all want,” she said. “The CDC says firearms are the second-leading cause of death for American children and teens and the first-leading cause of death for black children and teens. This is not OK. Children deserve the right to go to school without being afraid. They deserve the right to simply be children. By highlighting the issue, we can begin to address it.”