Sunday, June 20, 2021
64.0°F

Op-Ed: Gun violence nothing short of a pandemic

| June 4, 2021 1:00 AM

We are all very well aware of the gun violence that is plaguing our nation. This is another pandemic that we must address.

National Gun Violence Awareness Day and Wear Orange weekend is happening June 4-6. Join us as we display the color orange in our community to honor victims and survivors of gun violence.

To explain further — Orange is the color that Hadiya Pendleton’s friends wore in her honor after she was shot and killed at the age of 15. After her death, her friends asked us to stand up, speak out, and Wear Orange to raise awareness about gun violence.

Whether it’s worn by hunters in the forests of Idaho or Hadiya’s loved ones in Chicago, orange honors the more than 100 lives cut short and the hundreds more wounded by gun violence every day — and demands action.

Here in North Idaho, each one of us most likely knows someone who has been impacted by homicide, suicide and even unintentional shootings. Our goal is to raise awareness of gun violence which includes suicide.

Suicide is especially prevalent in Idaho. Idaho ranks 4th in the nation for suicide by gun, and gun suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among children and teens in Idaho.

In Idaho, 83% of all gun deaths among children and teens are suicides (everystat.org). Keeping guns out of the hands of children and teens is an important responsibility of every adult. To learn more about the essential steps to take, please visit besmartforkids.org.

The framework of this program is designed to help parents and adults normalize conversations about gun safety and take responsible actions that can prevent child gun deaths and injuries. The recent school shooting in Rigby, Idaho, by a sixth-grade girl is a stark reminder that adults are responsible for securing their guns. This was a tragedy for the victims and the shooter and we are thankful that there was no loss of life. This child should not have had access to a gun.

Mayor Shelby Rognstad of Sandpoint has issued a proclamation declaring today Gun Violence Awareness Day in that city. This is the 3rd year that he has done so and we thank him for that.

In the Coeur d'Alene City Council meeting on June 1, Mayor Steve Widmyer stated that he does support gun violence awareness and we appreciate that.

In 2019 and 2020, Mayor Widmyer also issued a proclamation for Gun Violence Awareness Day and we truly appreciate that as well. Unfortunately, he has decided not to do so this year. He has also declined to allow our group to put up orange ribbon sashes in McEuen Park or to have the K27 Memorial lit in orange as was done last year.

Honoring people who have died should not be controversial or partisan. This is a public issue. We will continue to honor those impacted by gun violence in our community.

We Wear Orange to demand a future free from gun violence. Orange symbolizes the value of each person’s life and we wear it and display it to honor those taken and wounded by gun violence, and to call for an end to this crisis. This event is a non-partisan 501 (c)(3) charitable event.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a pronounced impact on gun violence in the United States as homicides and unintentional shootings increased to record levels in 2020. Gun homicides and non-suicide-related shootings took approximately 19,300 lives, a 25 percent increase from 2019.

Research reveals that gun violence-related deaths in 2020 will likely exceed 40,000, a rate of 12.3 gun deaths per 100,000 people. This translates to the highest rate of gun deaths in the last two decades (everytownresearch.org).

Gun suicide makes up two-thirds of all firearm deaths in the U.S., and access to firearms — meaning personal or household gun ownership — increases the risk of suicide by three times.

We also know that unemployment and financial hardship can increase the risk of suicide, so we’re encouraging everyone to check in on their loved ones.

For support, please go to https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org or go to the Idaho hotline — 800-273-8255.

• The North Idaho Crisis Center: 208-625-4884

• The Text Suicide Hotline: 741-741

• The Region 1 Mobile Crisis Team: 208-769-2730

Surging gun sales and shelter-in-place orders in the last year have left domestic violence victims trapped with abusers who have easy access to guns. That’s a deadly combination. Domestic violence spikes during times of prolonged financial stress — plus, access to guns makes it five times more likely an abuser will kill his female victim.

If you or someone you know is being mistreated or hurt by a partner, please reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. It’s available 24/7, and the phone number is 1-800-799-7233. And if you’re unable to speak safely, you can log onto thehotline.org, or text “START” to the above number.

Locally in Coeur d’Alene the online address is safety@safepassageid.org and the hotline is 208-664-9303 (voice) 208-449-7228 (text).

We continue to educate, organize, support and rally for safer communities. To learn more go to wearorange.org or text ORANGE to 64433.

• • •

The North Idaho Wear Orange Team is Alice Arambarri, Mary Rosdahl, Amy Weinsheim, Sarah Blee, Loree Peery, Kris Hannigan-Luther and Nick Arambarri.