Gun violence prevention activists gather for Wear Orange Day
Jun 20, 2019 13h28
By Spencer Belnap
Orange ribbons line the walkway to the event held at Sugar House Park on June 8, representing some of the lives lost to gun violence. (Spencer W. Belnap/City Journals)
By Spencer W. Belnap | [email protected]
The first Friday of June has become National Gun Violence Awareness or Wear Orange Day. Cities from coast to coast held events that weekend where people gathered to support one another in commitments to saving lives from gun violence.
Salt Lake City had its own event on Saturday, June 8, at Sugar House Park. Utah’s chapter of Moms Demand Action hosted the afternoon. They partnered with March For Our Lives SLC, Gun Violence Prevention Center, League of Women Voters and the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition. It was an afternoon filled with passion, hope and community camaraderie.
Sixteen-year-old Ainsley Moench became more passionate and actively involved with gun violence prevention after the Parkland High School shooting in Florida in February 2018. She is going to be a senior at Skyline High in the fall and is an executive team member of the local chapter of March For Our Lives.
“I remember waking up and seeing the headline about Parkland and not really feeling anything about it,” Ainsley said. “That was kind of a big signal to me that something’s wrong; if a mass shooting just happened at a school, and I have become so desensitized to the issue. Something has to be done so this doesn’t become the reality.”
Ainsley and fellow organizers made it an event open to all ages. While the main reason and focus were serious in nature, they included some fun elements like a bounce house for kids and free hot dogs and popcorn for everyone. The park pavilion was filled with orange T-shirts, ribbons, bracelets and hats. Before a couple of guest speakers took the microphone, there was a local musician singing and playing the guitar.
Carolyn Tuft was shot three times at Trolley Square mall in February of 2007. While she survived, her 15-year-old daughter, Kirsten, was killed by the gunman. Since that tragic day, the Tuft family has had to face unbearable pain. They have become intensely active about gun violence prevention. Tuft spoke about life as a shooting survivor and the ways her family’s lives have been forever altered.
“There aren’t any instructions on what do you do when your life has been shattered due to gun violence,” Tuft said in her speech. “We had to figure it out with the loss of our youngest person in our family. It’s a ripple effect, and you’re never the same. I don’t want anyone to know the pain we live with.”
Tuft was an avid cyclist and small business owner before the shooting. She never thought about gun violence from her safe Salt Lake neighborhood and neither did her family. Twelve years later, they continue to share their story to help prevent gun violence for others. Tuft said she was not there that day to make people feel sorry for her. On what would have almost been Kirsten’s 28th birthday, she was there to continue her cause.
“I work with people all over the country. I’ve gone to D.C. several times with my kids to lobby for safer gun legislation. We joined Moms Demand Action because there’s such a need to teach people,” Tuft said. “And it’s not that we’re against guns. Many of our members own guns. It’s about coming together to collectively solve the epidemic we have in this nation.”
While that was Salt Lake’s main event for National Gun Violence Awareness Day, the groups involved have things happening at the local level all the time. If interested in finding out more information visit www.momsdemandaction.org or www.marchforourlivesutah.com.