Families of gun violence victims to lobby Congress in D.C.
Midday Monday, mothers and other relatives of Durham’s murder victims were headed to Washington, D.C., as part of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns’ Demand a Plan campaign.
They’ll attend a hearing on gun violence, watch the State of the Union address together and lobby Congress to take action on gun violence in the United States.
Durham mothers Brenda James and Yolanda Bagley will be there. Bagley’s son Jelani Dandy, 24, was shot Nov. 12, 2012, by someone he thought was a friend, she said. He died the next day. The shooter turned himself in.
“A young man, 20 years-old, murdered Jelani. The detective said they asked why, and he said, ‘No reason.’ He had a lot of anger…that young man had a gun and shot my son point blank in the head, in the car. He shot him,” Bagley said.
Brenda James’ son Randolph James was shot and killed in 2007 at age 25. She has spoken out about stopping gun violence before in Durham, but this is her first trip to D.C. about the issue. The group’s schedule Tuesday includes a Senate subcommittee meeting on gun violence, a press conference at the White House and watching President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address together at a hotel on Capitol Hill. On Wednesday they’ll meet with members of Congress and their staffs about gun violence.
“I think things have gotten out of hand,” James said. “So many young lives have been taken.” She pointed out that of the 24 homicides in Durham last year, 21 involved guns. Victims ranged in age from 13 to 81.
“It’s across the spectrum. That’s a lot for this little town, people getting killed,” she said. James wants Congress to know that something needs to be done – a law needs to be passed that “gets a handle on guns in society.” She hopes members of Congress will see all the pain and all the suffering.
“We are just asking for change, for them to realize what is really going on in society. We don’t think of our children as statistics. My son is my son,” James said. “You never stop grieving. How shocked you feel never goes away. The hurt never goes away. It’s just horrible. It’s just horrible. It does not go away.”
James said every year she experiences depression around his birthday, Dec. 16, and in August, when he was killed.
James, who was born in Durham in 1950, said she also hopes the trip will do something for Durham.
“This is where we live, and we want to live in a safe place,” she said.
Bagley said that about every other young man on the street has a firearm, and too many of them are dying. Someone is shooting someone in Durham over petty things, she said, because they have that power of a firearm.
Bagley described her son as a good-looking man who was “somewhat of a mama’s boy, but he knew he had to be responsible.” She said he was very creative with his writing, was in school at Durham Tech and was still growing, mentally and spiritually.
Other Durham residents on the Mayors Against Illegal Guns trip include Effie Steele, whose daughter was killed by gun violence, and family of 13-year-old Shakanah China, who was killed in a drive-by shooting outside her home in May 2011. Shakanah’s grandmother Annette Carrington, mother, Demetriss China, and siblings Javonna Carrington and Zamari China are also on the trip.
The North Carolinians on the trip are among 120 survivors and family members there for Mayors Against Illegal Guns’ Demand A Plan campaign for gun law reforms. Durham Mayor Bill Bell is part of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, as well as the mayors of Chapel Hill and Carrboro. For more information about the campaign, visit www.demandaplan.org, or www.mayorsagainstillegalguns.org.