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Patricia Maisch: Why we wear orange for Gun Violence Awareness Month in June

Gun Violence Awareness holds special significance in Tucson because of the Jan. 8, 2011, shooting of my congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords. Six of her constituents were murdered, and 12 others were physically wounded. This is in addition to the everyday individual gun violence incidents on our streets, in our businesses and in our homes.

High-profile shootings garner the most media attention, but our nation is plagued daily by random individual shootings, too. An average of 106 people are killed by firearms each and every day, and twice that many are wounded — wounds that range from a graze to life-altering injuries.

Two-thirds of those killed are by suicide that, unfortunately, is completed more often with a gun than with other methods. In my opinion, and with facts to back that opinion, easy access to firearms is the No. 1 reason for the carnage.

To bring awareness to this scourge, gun-violence prevention groups and community partners come together each June 2 to honor those taken by gun violence and those suffering as a result of their wounds. This year gun violence survivors, MOMS Demand Action, Gun Violence Prevention AZ, Students Demand Action, Everytown for Gun Safety, Mi Familia Vota, National Organization for Women, Emerge, League of Women Voters and Represent Me AZ will partner to sponsor this important community event.

Remembering those killed and wounded is not our only focus; we need to inform the community of the physical and monetary cost associated with gun violence. In Arizona alone, the monetary cost of gun violence is nearly $2 billion annually. The cost in physical suffering is immeasurable. The emotional cost is beyond comprehension.

A bit of history on why June is Gun Violence Awareness Month: New York State was the first to gain official status for this important marker. New York City’s Erica Ford, who runs LifeCamp there, promoted the awareness month and designated the color orange for their group.

Then the friends of Hadiya Pendleton brought it to national attention in 2013. Pendleton, from Chicago, had the honor of marching with her high school band in President Obama’s second inauguration parade on Jan. 21, 2013. Eight days later, on Jan. 29, 2013, she was caught in crossfire after school. She died on the way to the hospital. Hadiya’s friends decided to celebrate her birthday without her, and they decided to do that by wearing orange gear, like hunters do to be safe — be careful, “don’t shoot” — and because orange was Hadiya’s favorite color.

Wear Orange was born on Hadiya’s birthday and has been celebrated ever since. The first three years of Wear Orange the celebrations were mostly local, but then in 2016 the nation’s gun violence prevention groups took the lead from Hadiya’s friends, and we now celebrate formally June 1-3.

In Tucson, we prefer to celebrate on Hadiya’s actual birthday, June 2. Some say it’s hard to celebrate in Tucson in June because of the heat. We say burying a child or loved one is hard; this is easy in comparison. So please join us at the YWCA at 525 N. Bonita Avenue this Saturday, June 2 from 3 to 8 p.m. Starting the day will be music and informational/action tables. The movie “Under the Gun” will be shown at 4 p.m., and the night will conclude with a vigil that begins at 6 p.m. Celebrate the vigil with music, singing and remarks by survivors, concerned citizens and legislators.

Join us, please, to honor and commemorate the lives of shooting victims and survivors across our great country. Come for the entire event or for a select part. We’ll be honored to have you. And don’t forget: WEAR ORANGE.

On Jan. 8, 2011, Patricia Maisch wrestled ammunition away from the shooter and stopped him from reloading. She lives in Tucson.

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