WEST CHESTER >> Three dozen marchers don’t want to forget the collective pain and suffering experienced with the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty-six lives were snuffed out in seven minutes.
The march marked the five-year anniversary of the mass killing. Twenty of the victims were children.
“The 5th Anniversary Remembrance” started out at The Charles A. Melton Arts and Education Center. Marchers held high T-Shirts with the names and ages of each shooting victim.
The procession of about three dozen members of the organizations Gun Sense Chester County, Heeding God’s Call to End Gun Violence and Delaware County United to Prevent Gun Violence, proceeded to march up Market Street and hold a second brief ceremony at the steps of the Historic Chester County Courthouse.
Each victim’s name and age was mouthed and a hand bell was rung to mark their passing.
Twenty-six years ago, Starr Cummin Bright was randomly shot in a church. She detailed her long and difficult recovery efforts.
“This can’t go on,” she said, “We can’t continue to lose children like this.
“This doesn’t make any sense. What happened to me can happen to anybody. I am a gunshot survivor.”
Coatesville’s Mike Young carried a shirt with the name, Josephine Gay, a 7-year-old Sandy Hook victim.
Young said the experience was emotional.
“Overall, it is sad that this young life was taken away,” Young said.
Ann Colby-Cummings, chair of the board of directors of the 400-member Gun Sense Chester County, said that people should remember.
Colby-Cummings supports universal background checks for all gun purchases.
“Is not every life lost unnecessarily to a gunshot a tragedy?” she asked, “One worthy of reflection and the question, ‘How might we have avoided this?’”
Colby-Cummings answered the question.
“We can set a sorely needed example in our divided nation by coming together to listen to diverse viewpoints and to identify common ground and work to implement change in areas there is already agreement.”
Gun Sense Chester County is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization that welcomes both gun owners and non-gun owners to the group.
Members believe that establishing common ground is the solution. The group focuses on discussion of both gun and non-gun owners, educating residents, and working with elected officials to advocate change.
“In the five years since Sandy Hook Elementary, Congress has not passed any major legislation on gun regulation,” Colby-Cummins said. “As we sit here today, polls show that a majority of gun owners and those who don’t own guns want background checks before every purchase.
“Despite the fact that both groups want background checks for every gun purchase, we still don’t have that in Pennsylvania or the nation.”
Pew Research Center polls show that about 77 percent of voting gun owners and about 87 percent of those who don’t own guns believe that background checks should be in place.
A Quinnipiac University poll showed that about 91 percent of voters support a ban on sale of guns to people convicted of a major crime, about 62 percent favor stricter regulations on ammunition sales and about 74 percent support a ban on gun modifications that can make a gun work like a fully automatic weapon.
“This is why we are working hard to educate people about gun violence and gun regulations to engage in finding a common ground and to advocate with elected officials,” Colby-Cummings said.
Last week, the House of Representatives passed HR 38. The bill would mandate concealed carry reciprocity and could take away Pennsylvania’s right to control who can carry concealed guns.
If the bill gains final passage, it would make it easier for gun owners to carry hidden guns across state lines, with all states forced to recognize state laws enforcing few or no concealed carry restrictions.
Speaker Bryan Miller, of Heeding God’s Call, was pleased to report that congressional Republicans from the Philadelphia area, U.S. Reps. Ryan Costello, R-6, Brian Fitzpatrick, R-8, and Pat Meehan, R-7, voted against the legislation. He said those votes occurred due to advocacy.
“That wouldn’t have happened two years ago or five years ago,” Miller said. “We were paying attention to it and let them know that there are consequences to their vote.”
The group Harmonium, featuring Judy Perri and Craig Talbot, lovingly sang several songs, including “Imagine,” by John Lennon, a gun violence victim.