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‘We the people demand action.’ Lexington vigil mourns gun violence victims, calls for change

Hundreds gather for ‘Enough is Enough’ vigil in Lexington, call for action on gun violence

Hundreds gathered in Lexington’s Robert F. Stephens Courthouse plaza Thursday night to hold a vigil for the victims of gun violence from two mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, this week.
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Hundreds gathered in Lexington’s Robert F. Stephens Courthouse plaza Thursday night to hold a vigil for the victims of gun violence from two mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, this week.

Hundreds gathered in Lexington’s Robert F. Stephens Courthouse plaza Thursday night to hold a vigil for the 31 dead and more than 50 wounded from two mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, this week.

The “Enough is Enough” vigil was organized by the Kentucky chapter of Moms Demand Action, a grassroots movement and offshoot of Everytown for Gun Safety. Both organizations advocate for “common sense” gun laws to address mass gun violence.

Speakers toed the line between honoring victims and advocating for specific policy measures. Many who spoke were family members of an individual who lost their life to gun violence.

“Gun survivors and all of us here — we are the people,” Lynsey Sugarman, head of the Moms Demand Action Lexington chapter, said. “And we the people are heartbroken when we see young children getting bulletproof backpacks as part of their school supplies. We the people are devastated when we hear our friends are afraid to go to a rally, or to a concert, or to Walmart, for fear they might be shot... We the people are tired of our sons and daughters in Lexington being shot down in the streets. We the people demand action.”

Activist Anita Franklin spoke about the loss of her son Antonio, 21, who was shot and killed in Lexington five years ago. After the loss, Franklin has fought gun violence in Lexington through an awareness campaign.

Before the program began, Franklin distributed flyers with a list of names and places that had been affected by recent gun violence. She later read from the same list.

“Go to Walmart, get shot,” Franklin said. “Go to the garlic festival, get shot. Go to a concert, get shot. Go to a church, get shot. Go to work, get shot. Go to school, get shot… And the list goes on and on.”

Franklin was joined by over a dozen other survivors of gun violence who shared their stories with the crowd. Survivors spoke the names of family members and friends they’d lost to gun violence into the microphone. Many, including Franklin, expressed that “thoughts and prayers” are no longer enough in the wake of local and national shootings.

On Sunday, a gunman opened fire at a mall in El Paso. The attack left 20 people dead and more than two dozen wounded, some critically so. Within hours, another mass shooting occurred in Dayton, where a gunman opened fire at a bar, killing nine people and injuring nearly 30 others.

Less than two weeks prior, a gunman opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Northern California. The attack left three dead and 12 injured.

Just days before the attacks in El Paso and Dayton, the Associated Press reported that the U.S. had seen 20 mass shootings in 2019 — a number on-par with mass shooting statistics from the same time last year.

Just hours before the Lexington vigil started, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate may look into an assault weapon ban and expanded background checks. Sen. McConnell indicated that President Donald Trump had expressed concern over recent mass shootings.

Speakers at Lexington’s vigil were hopeful about McConnell’s statements. But they were not ready to celebrate just yet. Sugarman attributed McConnell’s statements on gun control legislation to recent public pressure from both sides of the aisle.

Sugarman and other speakers were more hopeful about the bipartisan “red flag” bill that is currently being crafted in the Kentucky Senate. The bill, drafted by Senators Julie Raque Adams-R, Paul Hornback-R and Morgan McGarvey-D, would allow state courts to issue temporary bans on gun ownership for individuals believed imminently dangerous.

Just before it became dark, the vigil began. Attendees lit one another’s candles and stood in silence for 100 seconds — one second for each life lost to gun violence every day.

Many elected politicians were in attendance, but none spoke. Sugarman said that this was an opportunity for those officials to listen for a change.

“The elected official’s voice is heard when they enact laws,” Sugarman said. “Tonight is the night for the survivor’s voices.”

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