Local officials join push for gun safety

Apr. 16, 2014 @ 06:56 PM

On May 21, Joslin Simms will mark the ninth anniversary of the death of her son, Rayburn, fatally shot after his car was rear-ended at a Durham intersection.

Simms joined local elected officials, mothers and supporters in Chapel Hill on Wednesday for the national launch of Everytown For Gun Safety, a new group dedicated to “speak out for common-sense gun laws that will reduce gun violence.”

“You ask about your right to own a gun but what about the right of my son to live,” Simms said. “We’ve got to stand together. I’m tired of seeing mothers saying ‘I love you’ for the last time to their child in a casket.”

The groups Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America combined to form Everytown for Gun Safety. It’s a grassroots movement that aims to occupy areas common to gun lobbyists such as corporate board rooms and state capitols. The organization also will seek to support candidates and legislation seeking to reduce gun violence.

 “It was almost a year ago that Washington last failed us,” said Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt. “We’ve been advocating for reasonable gun laws to be passed by the United States Congress. We haven’t been heard.”

Kleinschmidt said that Everytown For Gun Safety will “provide a powerful counterweight to the gun lobby.” The organization has significant financial backing. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the founders of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, announced Wednesday that he plans to spend $50 million in 2014 to reduce gun violence through Everytown’s educational and advocacy efforts.

Kleinschmidt also announced Wednesday the creation of the Gun Sense Voter Campaign, an effort to get 1 million voters to the polls in November to vote for candidates committed to ending gun violence.

Durham City Councilman Eddie Davis said that people can make their voices heard in the upcoming elections in May and November by “supporting candidates who want to do things to restrict the presence of guns in our everyday life.”

Several speakers talked about the importance of protecting children from gun violence.

“Our children, our community, that’s what this is about,” Creedmoor Mayor Darryl Moss said.

Kaaren Haldman, chapter leader of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, stressed similar points. “Today marks our renewed enthusiasm to come together and protect our children from senseless gun violence,” she said. “We mark too many somber anniversaries in this country.”

One of those anniversaries is Dec. 14, 2012, which is when a gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Gilles Rousseau lost his 30-year-old daughter, Lauren, a substitute teacher, that day.

“She loved kids and she died doing what she loved,” Rousseau said. “There is a club of us who know this pain and suffering too well, whose lives have been turned upside down by gun violence and it’s growing every day.

“I came here today for Lauren because she can’t be here,” he said through tears. 

For more information, visit www.everytown.org.