T-shirts representing the victims of gun violence in Philadelphia are displayed by Heeding God’s Call.

T-shirts representing the victims of gun violence in Philadelphia are displayed by Heeding God’s Call.

by Gail B. Hicks

In 1963 I thought that the assassination of President Kennedy was the worst thing in the world. Then Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and Bobby Kennedy lost their lives to gunfire. Little did I know that gun violence would become a commonplace occurrence. Gun deaths in malls, schools, movie theaters, universities, front porches and bus stops happen every day. Recently there was even a fatal shooting outside of the Dell East during a peace concert.

I have not seen so many young men in wheelchairs because of gun violence since the war in Vietnam.

My friends in other countries do not know how Americans can deal with the gun culture in the United States. Not that anyone is talking about taking away our Second Amendment constitutional rights, but it is the mentality of gun violence that is so hard to fathom.

I have been a social worker since 1980 and have lost numerous clients to this form of violence. My clients ranged in age from nine to 88 years old. One young woman was killed during her first outing after giving birth to a baby boy. Another client shot and killed the manager of a drug store on Super Bowl Sunday. The damage inflicted by bullets is permanent.

Firearms are the second leading cause of death (after car accidents) for young people 19 years old and under. Eight children and teens are killed by guns every day.

This is one of the main reasons that I have been a member of Heeding God’s Call for the last several years. This organization was not formed to deny anyone their Second Amendment rights. HGC’s goal is to raise moral and social barriers to illegal handgun trafficking and to inspire hope by giving people the ability to do something that makes a difference.

HGC is a faith-based movement that helps local faith communities organize advocacy campaigns to encourage gun shops to adopt a code of conduct to deter illegal purchasing and trafficking of handguns. The organization holds murder site vigils at the locations of recent gun homicides.

On designated days each month, members of HGC picket in front of gun shops in various locations in the Delaware Valley and Maryland to urge them to adopt a set of practices to deter straw purchases – when a third party buys a gun for someone who cannot buy a gun legally.

Straw purchases provide the guns used in almost all of the homicides by firearms in our area. Pennsylvania feeds murder by firearms in surrounding states that have stronger limits on the sale of hand guns.

The group’s northwest chapter, Neighborhood Partners to End Gun Violence (NPEG), has designed a T-shirt memorial to the lost to pay respect to those murdered in years 2013 and 2014. Several area churches and synagogues have participated in this display. Each shirt contains the victim’s name, date of death, and age. A look at this array of shirts gives the viewer a quick reality check on the young age of so many of the deceased.

HGC currently has four memorials in different locations in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

This is a problem that touches us all. You can be a part of the solution. Reach out to HGC and NPEG at www.heedinggodscall.org. Join the movement.

Gail B. Hicks, of Mt. Airy, is a member of Heeding God’s Call.