Members of the community gathered for the Naples Wear Orange event, which aims to raise awareness of gun violence
Morgan Hornsby, firstname.lastname@example.org
A day after National Gun Violence Awareness Day, a coalition of moms and other concerned citizens gathered at Lowdermilk Park, holding signs that read, “Don’t arm teachers” and “Background checks.”
“(Gun violence is) not just in big cities. It’s not just in schools. It’s not just on the streets. It’s everywhere, and it’s going to take all of us to solve it,” said Gay Valimont, who manages Moms Demand Action’s 33 local Florida groups.
Those who attended the event Saturday wore orange, which became the defining color of the gun violence prevention movement when 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed in Chicago in 2013.
Participants listened to speakers who urged the community to come together and organize. They also brought strollers, diapers and toiletry items to donate to The Shelter for Abused Women and Children.
“Moms Demand Action is just such a well-organized, well-oiled machine,” Valimont said. “It gives you purpose and specific calls to action to change the way we’re living right now. And we’ve made strides.”
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is a national organization that fights for public safety measures that protect people from gun violence. There are chapters in all 50 states.
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Other Wear Orange events were held throughout Florida, but each one was different depending on the community’s needs, Valimont said.
Ronnie Bellone spoke about her experience during a 1982 shooting in Bethesda, Maryland when a gunman opened fire in her workplace.
“May 28, 1982 was the day that changed my life,” she said.
Bellone recalled hiding under her desk for more than four hours as she heard the gunman fire rounds from an automatic weapon.
Michaela O’Brien, a rising senior at Naples High School and member of Students Demand Action Naples chapter, spoke about what life as a student is like following several mass shootings in schools.
“It has made me much stronger but not fearless,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien began her journey as a student activist after the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando.
She began standing up for the rights of the LGBT community, and after the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, she began lobbying against gun violence.
“I am here for the students,” she said. “I am here for the survivors. For those who are no longer with us.”
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