Wear Orange campaign event to support National Gun Violence Awareness Day

Becky Campbell • Updated May 30, 2018 at 11:15 AM

Wearing orange in Tennessee might not normally turn any heads, but on Saturday, marchers hope their garish shirts will raise awareness of the country’s gun violence problem.

The group Tri-Cities Moms Demand Action will host the third annual Wear Orange event in honor of National Gun Violence Awareness Day with a march from Carver Recreation to downtown and back. The family-oriented event will begin at 1 p.m. with music and crafts before comments from several community members — including a local government official, a gun violence survivor, Johnson City Police Lt. Scotty Carrier, retired teacher Michelle Treece and a local student.

More than a dozen agencies and organizations have joined the Wear Orange campaign, which was started five years ago by a group of Chicago teenagers to memorialize 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, a high school friend who was was shot in the back and killed while standing with friends inside Harsh Park in Kenwood, Chicago after taking her final exams on Jan. 29, 2013.

The Wear Orange movement promotes gun safety and uses orange — the color hunters wear in the woods to protect themselves and others and a color that reflects the value of human life — as its “pledge to honor the lives of Americans stolen by gun violence, to help keep firearms out of dangerous hands and to protect our children from gun violence. Orange is the symbol of the gun violence prevention movement, and is used by activists all over the country to raise awareness,” according to the website www.wearorange.org.

“I think this year will be bigger because of things that have been happening,” throughout the nation, said Vicki Powers, one of the Moms Demand Action organizers. “Our organization has been active in the area for three years and we’ve become better known, particularly since Parkland (Florida) and Santa Fe (Texas) shootings. We’ve seen a lot of activity with people wanting to help.”

Powers said the movement isn’t just about the mass shootings that garner so much national attention, but it’s also about anyone killed with a handgun. She said 96 Americans are killed every day by guns, and many of them commit suicide.

“Our goal is to bring attention to gun violence and how to reduce it … better storage and keeping weapons out of the hands of children. Those are big concerns.”

Powers said the organization in no way is against gun ownership, but promotes responsible gun ownership.

“We have lots of gun owners in our organization,” she said. “We support the Second Amendment and we’re not anti-gun, but we know from other places where laws are stricter, you can still have guns and protect people.”

The event begins at 1 p.m. with the speakers set to begin around 1:30 p.m. Powers said the awareness walk, which will begin at Carver, loop around Founders Park where Blue Plum activities will be in progress and then back to the recreation center. The public is invited to attend and participants are urged to wear orange in support of the campaign.