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Opinion | Martin J. Walsh and William Gross

Our young people should grow up free from the fear of gun violence

(Andrew Harnik/AP)

This weekend, we will take part in a nationwide effort to raise awareness about gun violence. Together with survivors, grassroots organizations, and other community leaders, we will remember those we’ve lost. We’ll call on our national lawmakers to take real action to end this epidemic. And we’ll recommit ourselves to continuing the progress we’ve made here in Boston.

This annual weekend of action is called Wear Orange for Gun Safety. It was founded in honor of Hadiya Pendleton. In 2013, 15-year-old Hadiya had just finished her exams, and was relaxing with friends in her Chicago neighborhood when her life was cut short by a bullet.

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Hadiya’s tragic death is part of a nationwide epidemic. Every day, gun violence claims the lives of 100 Americans, many of them young people. Every year, nearly 2,900 children and teens are shot and killed, and another 15,600 are shot and wounded. Black and Latino children and teens are disproportionately affected. Gun violence in the form of mass shootings, domestic and street violence, and suicide is traumatizing another generation of young people, and we must do everything we can to stop it.

Too many families in Boston know the kind of pain that Hadiya’s parents feel. They know what’s at stake better than anyone, and they have turned their grief into action. In Boston, the survivor community has played a big role in our public safety efforts. Like Wear Orange, several Boston grassroots organizations formed in response to the loss of a young person: The Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, Mothers for Justice and Equality, and Operation Lipstick, to name a few.

The survivor community knows what’s at stake better than anyone. Their loss is what drives us to end the violence. They are leaders in some of Boston’s most important efforts: investing in our young people, creating positive opportunities in our neighborhoods, putting a strong focus on mental health, and helping people heal from trauma. Even though violent crime has decreased significantly in Boston, we have a lot more work to do. One life lost is one too many. We will never stop fighting until that number is zero.

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We’re going to double down on what’s working in the Boston community, and we’re going to push harder than ever for sweeping changes at the national level. Despite what the gun lobby wants us to believe, we know that the answer is not more guns. We’re demanding that Congress pass common-sense laws: a background check requirement for all gun sales, bump stock prohibitions, limits on high-capacity magazines, and red flag laws that restrict access to firearms for people in crisis. We need to stop these events from happening in the first place, and we need to do it now.

Our movement is gaining traction, and there’s reason to be hopeful. For the first time in 20 years, three major pieces of gun safety legislation passed the US House: the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, the Enhanced Background Checks Act, and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. We are making progress in this fight.

That’s what we’re fighting for this weekend on National Gun Violence Awareness Day. At special events in Boston and across the country, we will demand action on gun safety. We will wear orange, a color that has come to symbolize the value of human life. After Hadiya Pendleton’s death, her friends chose orange because it is the color hunters wear in the woods to warn others not to shoot, and because it is recognized as a color of peace. Her friends challenged us to stand with them and wear orange, too, and for the past six years, we have.

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This is how we honor every child we’ve lost in Boston and throughout the country. We work together, every day, to make sure the next generation can grow up in a world without the threat of gun violence.


Martin J. Walsh is the mayor of Boston. William Gross is the commissioner of the Boston Police Department.