The Town of Chapel Hill hosted a rally and flag-raising ceremony at the Peace and Justice Plaza on Friday to recognize National Gun Violence Awareness Day. Chapel Hill community members and local elected officials in orange clothing met to acknowledge those affected by gun violence and demand reform.
Carrboro Mayor Damon Seils proclaimed June 3, 2022, to be Gun Violence Awareness Day in Carrboro and encouraged residents to attend the rally and ceremony.
Town officials, including Seils and Orange County Commissioner Barbara Foushee, spoke at the event. Two police officers from the Chapel Hill Police Department raised an orange flag on the plaza.
Jeanne Brown, the mayoral aide for the Town, said the flag's color comes from the fact that hunters will wear orange clothing while in the woods to avoid being accidentally shot.
“For a while, we actually left the orange flag up year-round because we wanted to really show how urgent it is to get the legislation passed and take steps for safer measures,” she said.
Recent mass shootings, including those at the elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and the supermarket in Buffalo, New York, were mentioned in the June 2 proclamation from the Town of Carrboro.
In the proclamation, Seils also encouraged all members of the community to contact state and federal legislators to encourage the enactment of gun safety laws. He added that it is important to remind lawmakers that continued inaction contributes to deaths in North Carolina and the United States.
Orange County Commissioner Anna Richards said that compared to other countries, the statistics for gun violence in the United States are frighteningly higher.
According to data from the nonprofit North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, the United States experienced nearly 40,000 firearm deaths in 2017 – which was the highest number in 50 years. 1,430 of these deaths were in North Carolina in the same year.
The nonprofit advocates for new laws such as the regulation of guns as consumer products, banning assault weapons and requiring background checks on all gun purchases. It also advocates against laws that dismantle pistol purchase permitting systems, give legal immunity to the gun industry and arm teachers.
Richards said the bottom line is that more guns, such as giving weapons to teachers, kill more people. She said she believes there is no such thing as "good guys with guns."
She added that she was proud to be at the event and glad that the Town of Chapel Hill and the Town of Carrboro acknowledged Gun Violence Awareness Day.
“Hopefully we can work with our state legislators to pass some common-sense laws,” she said.
Brown said it is important to find a way to bridge the misunderstanding that common-sense gun laws are asking people to give up their rights.
She added that she grew up in Texas, where there was a much different climate and attitude in regards to guns.
“I have a sister-in-law, who was a rookie police officer in San Antonio, who was hit by an AK-47 and has been disabled for the rest of her life,” she said. “So many of us have stories or are related to survivors or victims. It is a big deal.”
Chapel Hill Town Council Member Amy Ryan said that the Town had held events to raise awareness for gun violence multiple times in the past.
“It’s just sad that we have to keep coming back,” she said.
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