By Jen Russon
Broward County, notably the city of Parkland, was a sea of orange as gun control advocacy groups signed up new members, helped register voters, and honored the lives of those lost to gun violence. To wear orange is the tell-tale identifier of the gun control movement, selected because of what it means to hunters: “Don’t Shoot.”
Healing through Harmony, held at the Parkland Enrichment Center near Marjory Stoneman Douglas was one of hundreds of gun control activist events throughout the nation during National Gun Violence Awareness Week. In Parkland, friends and family of the students and teachers who were killed in the largest school gun massacre in U.S. history, gathered to honor the victims with poignant performances on the outdoor stage. It was a bittersweet beginning to what Broward County legislators have proclaimed an official awareness week. It was also colorful. Orange shirts, hand fans, dyed carnations and raised voices presented a unified front for sensible gun laws.
Change is happening said State Rep. Jared Moskowitz who took the stage, but Americans cannot afford to stop now. Moskowitz remarked that the Republican nominee for Florida Governor, Adam Putnam, had attempted to pass a bill that allowed the purchase of guns before background checks were complete. “It failed,” he said, and reminded the cheering crowd that the fight was not over. He added, “There’s a gun manufacturer right now, who makes a gun that folds up like a phone.”
Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action, the two non-profits that organized the Parkland event, spent two months energizing the community and finding volunteers to make it happen. Collections for memorial funds, scholarships and healthy coffers with the sole intent of fighting the NRA, made the community more productive in the face of unimaginable loss. Douglas parents, April Schentrup and Fred Guttenberg remembered their children in speeches that also called for more activism at the grass-roots level.
For many, that meant change at the voting booth.
Douglas High School parent, Meredith Barry, whose ninth grade daughter was in the 1200 building on February 14, summed up what is collectively felt in a nation ravaged by 101 school shootings since the year began:
“I wish people wouldn’t sit around and wait until it happens to them. I’m a lifelong Republican and I registered as a Democrat.”
It was difficult to read her mood behind the dark sunglasses covering most of her face, but she added, in a voice that was unwavering, “I changed today.”