Community members hold vigil to bring awareness to gun violence

Jonathan Roberts • Updated Aug 9, 2019 at 6:51 PM

Vicki Powers was in Washington, D.C., with other members of Moms Demand Action chapters across the country when news broke of a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.

Less than 24 hours later, they awoke to the news of another mass shooting — this time in Dayton, Ohio.

Now, Powers and members and other members of the Tri-Cities’ Moms Demand Action chapter are pushing for “gun sense” in Tennessee and America — starting with an “honor with action vigil” in Founders Park Thursday evening.

“What we’re trying to do is alert people to ask their senators to pass red flag laws and expand background checks,” Powers said, calling the shootings in Dayton and El Paso “terrible.”

“Red flag laws” are laws that allow police or family members to petition a state court to order the removal of firearms from a person who may present a danger to themselves or others. The legislation has received renewed interest from citizens and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle following the two shootings last weekend that more than 30 people dead.

“No one law is going to stop gun violence, we know that, but there’s things we can do to to protect Americans, and do a better job than we’re doing now,” Powers continued. 

Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock gave a rousing speech calling for the country to “take our political hats off and come together as human beings and focus on how to reduce deaths of Americans.”

Speaking to the Press before the vigil, Brock said she feels “everybody needs to take a position” in the gun control debate, and that guns have “become such a political football, that we need to take our political hats off.” She also said that she hopes to see research on gun violence as a “public health issue.”

Washington County Commissioners Jodi Jones and Suzy Williams also addressed the crowd, with Williams’ words seemingly striking a chord with the audience, who burst into applause after she relinquished the microphone.

“(Gun violence) isn’t a Democratic problem; it isn’t a Republican problem —it’s our country’s problem,” she said during her speech.

Moms Demand Action volunteers also had a table set up asking attendees to pen letters to Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, urging him to support red flag laws and background check expansion. Several Moms Demand Action volunteers are planning to meet with members of Alexander’s staff in the coming weeks. 

As dozens watched and listened to the mayor address them and a gun violence epidemic gripping the country, Brock urged change from politicians, and action from Americans as she closed her speech.

“My final wish is this: We have to give up the political tug-of-war — it’s not working. And from the grassroots, sitting here, we must lead, and tonight I want to continue to pray for our sister cities so they know we are here for them and hopefully one day they don’t have to be for us,” Brock said during her speech.

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