CEDAR FALLS — Wearing orange to bring gun violence to the forefront of the conversation — that’s what several Columbus High School alumni did on Thursday.
The social group was reacting to “mass murders” in Buffalo, Uvalde and now Tulsa. The classmates, all 1966 graduates, were also unhappy with Governor Kim Reynolds signing a bill authorizing a special deer hunting season for those with AR-15s. They had decided enough was enough.
Six of their 10 members used the time together to peacefully protest at the Whiskey Road Tavern & Grill while having lunch.
“I kind of lost it. I was sad and angry, and we just had to do something,” said Linda Lynch, of Lake City. “There’s no reason to own an AR-15 .”
They usually get together for food and fellowship at least once a year. During the pandemic, it was twice a year on Zoom.
Their Thursday rally took place just before the “Wear Orange” weekend, in honor of Hadiya Pendleton. The 15-year-old was fatally shot on a playground in Chicago a week after taking part in former President Barack Obama’s second inaugural parade, according to online accounts.
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This year’s “Wear Orange” weekend comes days after Wednesday’s mass shooting at a hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in which four people were killed. It also follows the deaths of 19 children and two teachers in a mass shooting at a school in Uvalde, Texas, and the killing of 10 black people at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York by a white supremacist, all two last month.
“We’re not going to stop to get out of this,” Waterloo Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald said.
“I think people are afraid to talk about this stuff,” Lynch said. “Gun violence has become normalized and we have become desensitized to it.”
She urged people to be “outrageously brave” to bring about change.
Terry Halbmaier, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, wore a “More silence. ‘End Gun Violence’ T-shirt. She argued that 90% of people are actually against AR-15s being in the hands of ordinary citizens.
“We have to stand up and make ourselves known,” she said.
The classmates – who are now 74 and live in different parts of Iowa, Minnesota and Indiana – discussed the changes they would like to see happen.
The most extreme would be to prohibit these “weapons of war” from being in the hands of average citizens.
They recognize that this is unlikely to happen because of politicians who pretend to make small changes to advance gun control in Washington when in reality they are acting on behalf of their constituents who use hunting to deer as an “excuse” to possess military personnel. style weapons.
The shooting at a children’s lemonade stand Monday night in Waterloo is one of the latest two incidents of gun violence in a string of shootings over Memorial Day weekend.
“I don’t want kids to think school is a scary place,” Halbmaier said. “But turning it into an armed fortress isn’t the solution either, nor is blaming it on mental illness.”
Put your legislator on speed dial, have classmates advised, and go to a rally. Or when “Everytown for Gun Safety” asks you to send their message to five people, send it to 15.
The women had some ideas for what they will call to discuss with their representatives in Congress: Get rid of the bump stocks. Raise the legal age to purchase an automatic weapon to at least 21 years old. Implement red flag laws. Bring background checks. Create a universal database.
“We need prayers, but I think we’ll need a lot more than that,” said Linda Kelley of Cedar Falls.
June 3 is National Gun Violence Awareness Day.
Gun violence is also still prevalent in the Cedar Valley.
Last week Anthony Jacobs, 27, was shot and killed in Waterloo. A week earlier, 26-year-old Ana Hellia Berinobic-McLemore was found shot dead in a car, also in Waterloo.
Two others were injured in shootings last week.
On Wednesday, community leaders called for action to address recent gun violence in the area. Law enforcement officials said they had arrested at least 52 people on firearms charges so far this year.
Waterloo Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald said the violence would not be resolved by arrests. Former Chief and current Black Hawk County Supervisor Dan Trelka echoed Fitzgerald’s sentiments.
“We’re in a society today where not enough people are speaking out,” Trelka said. “We see it in our local violence. We see this violence across the country. There are clues. There is a behavior that these individuals exhibit.
Trelka suggested the key to stopping these tragedies is identifying potential shooters before they kill or injure someone instead of making anything illegal. In the case of the Robb Elementary shooter in Uvalde, Texas, he said the shooter was also breaking other laws — like driving illegally, having a gun on school property and shooting his grandmother.
“The right people just need to know about this behavior so we can try to prevent these tragedies,” Trelka said.
Photos: 2022 Peace Officers Memorial Service