GUILFORD, CT — The color orange was on full display Sunday as gun control advocates gathered on the Guilford Green to observe efforts to stem gun violence in the country.
WearOrange CT is a collaborative effort of CT Against Gun Violence, the Connecticut chapters of Moms Demand Action, the Newtown Action Alliance, and Sandy Hook Promise to observe National Gun Violence Awareness Day across the state of Connecticut.
This past weekend (June 1-3) marked Wear Orange Weekend, a movement in support of gun violence prevention started in 2015 when Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old girl who performed at former President Barack Obama’s second inaugural parade in 2013, was shot and killed in Chicago.
Her friends wanted to honor her legacy by speaking up against gun violence in America and by wearing orange, which is what hunters wear to protect themselves in the woods.
Events were held all over the state — and country — over the weekend to raise awareness about gun violence.
In Guilford, Moms Demand Action-CT Shoreline hosted a community-wide picnic on the Green.
There were sack races, hula hoop contests, a table from St. George Catholic Church offering Random Acts of Kindness ideas, and a table for people to make care cards to be mailed to families of shooting victims.
One of the Guilford event organizers, Dawn Carafeno, a member of the shoreline Moms Demand Action group, said there was a conscious effort to make sure Sunday’s festivities were not a political platform.
“There is going to be so much of that between now and midterms,” Carafeno said.
She said Sunday’s event was about “enjoying and embracing one another.”
“Watching our children play and laugh and run and enjoy the security we as parents and a small-town provide to them.”
She added: “Let’s make it our mission to do all we can to ensure that all the children of America, small town, urban, east, midwest, west, north, and south retain or recover the sense of security and safety that seems to be slipping away with their innocence as they are exposed to active shooter drills, and the unacceptable real threat of gun violence in far too many places in our lives.”
Gun violence has touched Guilford hard recently, Carafeno noted, referring to the gunshot death of 15-year-old Guilford High School student Ethan Song, who was killed while visiting the home of a friend in January.
No charges have been filed in the case, as of yet, though the Song family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the father of the boy who Ethan was with at the time of his death.
“Guilford is still heartbroken by the loss of Ethan,” Carafeno said, referring to the incident as a “preventable tragedy.”
Another Guilford organizer was Angela Montgomery who said Sunday’s events were “all about honoring gun victims and their families.”
“At the same time,” she said, “we are also here together to use our voice to spread awareness about encouraging legislators to pass common sense gun reform laws.”
The low-key approach of Sunday’s event wasn’t lost on one of the politicians in attendance, Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford.
Scanlon said the event was “helping raise awareness about the importance of the issue but nobody came here today to hear political speeches on the issue.”
“Instead,” Scanlon said, “today is about families coming together to have a good day and at the same time keep the issue in the forefront.”
Everytown for Gun Safety, an organization dedicated to ending gun violence, states that 96 Americans are killed every day by guns.
Everytown works “to pass common-sense laws and policies that save lives” through researching issues surrounding gun violence, developing solutions, and speaking with lawmakers.
National Gun Violence Awareness Day was actually this past Friday (June 1) and kicked off the Wear Orange Weekend, the nationwide campaign started by Everytown, which was created “to do life-saving work so that we can get closer to realizing a future free of gun violence” according to the official website.
It has become a yearly event.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy issued a proclamation that June 2, 2018, was Gun Violence Awareness Day for the State of Connecticut and First Selectman Dan Rosenthal issued the same for the town of Newtown, the scene of a shooting massacre in December 2012 in which 26 students, teachers, and staff were killed.
There were multiple “Wear Orange” rallies in Connecticut Saturday where participants spoke out against gun violence.
The weekend’s events came after Malloy signed a bill banning bump stocks in the state.
Bump stocks allow semiautomatic rifles to fire at a rate similar to that of automatic rifles. The bill also bans trigger cranks and other rate-of-fire enhancements.