By Tyronda James
Rochester Mayor Lovely A. Warren has proclaimed June 4 as Gun Violence Awareness Day. Warren was recently joined by City Council Vice President Willie J. Lightfoot and members of the ROC Against Gun Violence Coalition (RAGVC) in the declaration, joining a national movement.
“Like many cities our size, Rochester struggles with the plague of gun violence. I am grateful for this opportunity to join my fellow mayors across the country to amplify the voices of our citizens on a national level to bring an end to these senseless tragedies,” said Mayor Warren. “We know that it has to be a collective effort in order for all of us to work to end gun violence in our community. We will not be satisfied until people stop getting killed, stop getting shot in our community.”
National Gun Violence Awareness Day is in honor of Hadiya Pendleton of Chicago June second birthday. Pendleton marched in President Barack Obama’s second inaugural parade when she was 15 and was shot to death a few weeks later, she would have been 21 this year.
Warren said she had just recently participated in a kindergarten graduation ceremony and began to think about the many lives lost in the community and the many that have been impacted by gun violence year after year. She said many of the children shared dreams of wanting to be police officers, firefighters, doctors, architects and more.
“We have to get back to doing what works, being in our streets, talking to our young people, telling them that they have the ability to live out their dreams and to accomplish whatever goal they have in life. And we know that even the young people that maybe out here on our street struggling truly still have a dream, have a goal that they want to achieve,” said Warren.
“It’s our job to help them want to put down the guns, put down the weapons and want to pick up the books and achieve the dream that they had when they were in kindergarten.”
Warren also announced the launch of the new Office of Neighborhood Safety, which will “give the community a greater role in public safety with a unified strategy.”
Warren said the community cares and are out there, groups like Pathways to Peace, P.E.A.C.E Up Guns Down, Roc The Peace, Rise Up Rochester, Moms Against Gun Violence and RAGVC, among others. “We have to collectively do this together,” she said.
Councilmember Willie J. Lightfoot, chairman of the Public Safety, Youth and Recreation Committee said tracking where the guns are coming from is getting to the root of the problem. He said the number one priority is finding out where the guns are coming from and shutting those places down.
“If we get rid of the guns, then you can’t shoot anybody, right? That’s the mission of the coalition. That’s our priority. This is a public health crisis that is happening in our community,” said Lightfoot. “As a member of City Council, I want to confront this epidemic, which is causing so much pain and suffering for my fellow citizens.”
Lightfoot said the groups are looking at models from Chicago, Illinois gun data tracking. He said they are open to partnering with anyone who shares the same common goal of eradicating gun violence in the community.
Lightfoot referenced the attorney general’s recent gun buyback program and said he was grateful that more than 270 guns were taken off the street. We have to continue those efforts and other efforts.
Warren said she is committed to changing the narrative of gun violence in Rochester and getting guns off the streets and stopping violence. “We’ll gather day after day and be on our community streets day after day, changing the message and telling people that there are opportunities for success,” she said.
“There is an opportunity for a different life. If you choose it and we’re here to help you achieve that goal. One person at a time, one family at a time, one neighborhood at a time.”
During the Gun violence awareness proclamation weekend the Rochester skyline was lit orange on June 4th and 5th. RPD kicked off a month-long public awareness campaign message alongside the RocAGVC’s ‘A Shot From a Gun Can’t Be Undone’ campaign. Citizens were also asked to wear orange, which is the color that symbolizes the protection of human life. Classmates of Pendleton organized the Wear Orange campaign after her death, choosing orange because it is the color hunters wear to keep themselves safe from being shot by other hunters.
Warren and Councilmember Lightfoot are in the final stages of developing a public service campaign to start a community conversation about gun violence. Details will be announced this month.