Every day, nearly 100 Americans are killed by gun violence, and many more sustain firearm injuries. Today, in an effort to honor those whose lives have been cut short and the countless survivors injured, Suffolk County kicked off a week-long illumination of the County’s H Lee Dennison headquarters, beginning with a ceremony on Friday evening, June 1st. Through legislation, Suffolk has designated the next day, Saturday, June 2nd as “Gun Violence Awareness” Day.
Legislators Kara Hahn, Monica Martinez and Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory, who sponsored the legislation, were joined by gun violence survivors Shenee Johnson and Paul Guttenberg, prevention advocates Jeff Keister and Gemma Saylor, and Suffolk Community College student Sabrina Spotorno, at an illumination ceremony, during which the county office building was illuminated in orange. The building will be illuminated until June 5th.
In 2013, the color orange became associated with gun violence when teens at a Chicago high school honored their murdered classmate by wearing orange; the color hunters wear in the woods to protect themselves from being shot by mistake, a color that came to represent the value of human life. Now, five years later, as gun violence continues to take the lives of students in school settings, that small gesture has grown into the “Wear Orange” campaign, a coalition of more than 500 non-profits, cultural influencers and elected officials working to reduce gun violence in America. One of those groups, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a grassroots movement fighting for public safety measures to protect people from gun violence while respecting the Second Amendment, partnered with Suffolk County to spearhead the “Wear Orange” awareness campaign.
“The tragic mass murders of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are among the many deaths by gun violence that happen every day in the United States,” said Legislator Kara Hahn. “No child, no family, no school or community should have to go through the nightmare of a mass murder. These deaths are preventable. We remember and honor the victims through this remembrance, but also recommit ourselves to push lawmakers in Washington D. C. to enact comprehensive legislation to prevent gun violence. ”
“The tremendous toll that gun violence has taken on our country, our citizens and specifically our young students is a constant reminder of how lawmakers in Washington have failed as representatives of the people,” said Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory. “Their inaction is responsible for the many, many lives that have been lost. Allowing guns in the hands of people who should not have them, permitting assault weapons, failing to complete background checks and concealed carry laws are not what the majority of Americans want. We need leaders who have the backbone to pass laws that protect our people without concern for their reelection. I continue to hope that remembrances such as this will ignite a desire to do the right thing.”
“Continuing to lose children to gun violence and do nothing is unacceptable. Entire families have been shattered,” said Legislator Martinez. “It’s critical that we raise awareness about the true cost of gun violence and continue to demand action from our representatives in Washington. Today’s ceremony may seem like a small gesture, but out of small gestures can grow great change.”
The theme of Wear Orange 2018 is "Use Your Voice." Moms Demand Action believes that this is a moment for all Americans to come together and declare that we can--and we will--create a future free of gun violence,” said Jeff Keister, a volunteer with the Suffolk chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
In 2013, Legislator Hahn authored legislation requiring Suffolk County law enforcement agencies to cross reference the names and addresses of individuals undergoing a psychiatric crisis and transported to Stony Brook University’s Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program (CPEP) against Suffolk County’s pistol license registries. If there is a match between a name or home address and the registry, that information will automatically be provided to the respective pistol licensing bureau, where an investigation can be made regarding suspension or revocation of the license.
“In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre, we passed common sense legislation in Suffolk to limit access to firearms when certain risk factors are present,” said Hahn. “The time is long past due for action at the national level.”