By Ariel Worthy
The Birmingham Times
The Metro Birmingham NAACP chapter on Friday joined a nationwide effort to raise awareness about gun violence prevention.
The local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People held one of three press conferences in cities around the state that included Huntsville and Montgomery as part of National Gun Violence Awareness Day.
Wearing a bright orange hat, Terry Collins, of the Birmingham NAACP, said the awareness is an effort to get legislators and the president to act on gun control. He said orange is significant for a number of reasons.
“You might see people working in traffic wearing orange vests,” he said during a press conference at the downtown Birmingham Civil Rights Activists Committee Headquarters. “It’s bright, it’s to bring attention to the subject. We’re trying to bring attention to the subject of the need of gun control for our children and to protect the public.”
This weekend (June 1-3) marks Wear Orange Weekend, a movement in support of gun violence prevention started in 2015.
Collins said recent school shootings and the one in Las Vegas, where a gunman shot into a crowd at an outdoor concert and killed 58 people, calls for something to be done about access to guns.
“He had an assault rifle and plenty of ammunition to attack people,” said Collins, of the Las Vegas shooter. “We’re trying to get that access to guns under control.”
About school shootings, Collins said, “Almost every week there’s a shooting at a school and that needs to stop. How many children does it take to recognize there’s a need for control? Because the access to guns is out of control.”
Collins said one out of every three African Americans killed are killed by guns.
“Many people who have access to guns are not licensed and have no problem getting access to guns,” he said. “We want to create a situation where they don’t have as much access to it. if you don’t have it you can’t shoot it.”
The campaign started when 15-year-old Hayida Pendleton, a Chicago resident, was shot and killed two weeks after performing at President Obama’s second inauguration. Pendleton’s friends wore orange in honor of her death, thus turning orange into the official color of the gun control movement, Wear Orange being created soon after.
Paul Franklin, an NAACP ambassador, said more is needed than “thoughts and prayers.”
“It’s time to act,” he said. “There have been 305 school shootings in the last five years alone. After each of these our leadership, president, Congress, send out thoughts and prayers. Thus far thoughts and prayers have not stopped a single one of these shootings.”
The solution includes “getting guns out of the hands of the wrong people,” he said. “We need comprehensive background checks, there are weapons that should not be sold to civilians.”
The spate of shootings has a personal effect, Franklin said.
“Every time I walk into a mall, every time I walk on a campus, I wonder if this is my day,” he said. “All it takes is one person to just lose [it] and a bunch of people get shot for no reason. These are innocent people being killed.”
Studies conducted by the National Safety Council and the National Center for Health and Statistics conclude that American citizens have a 1-in-315 lifetime chance of death as a result of gun violence. That’s more than 50 percent more likely than risk of death by car, truck, van and the combined risks of drowning, stabbing, choking on food, fire and smoke, airplane crashes, animal attacks, and natural disasters.