Greenfield Recorder – Wear Orange organizers are preparing an exhibition to commemorate victims of gun violence

GREENFIELD – Hadiya Pendleton spent part of Jan. 21, 2013, marching in President Barack Obama’s second inaugural parade. After the high school student’s life was cut short by a drive-by shooting eight days later, her friends decided to remember her by wearing orange — the color hunters wear in the woods to protect themselves and others from deadly gunfire.

This evolved into Wear Orange, a tradition that started on June 2, 2015, which would have been Hadiya’s 18th birthday. National Gun Violence Awareness Day is commemorated by people wearing orange and making orange decorations in honor of the 120 people killed by guns every day in the United States. Local volunteers plan to hold their annual event on the Greenfield Common on June 7.

“This is a day where it’s not about politics, it’s about loss,” said organizer Robin Neipp.

In recent years, participants have provided the trees with orange hearts bearing the names of victims of gun violence. The goal this year is to place at least 255 hearts representing the average number of gun violence deaths in Massachusetts per year – 56% of which are suicides. According to the Massachusetts Medical Society, 557 people are injured by guns in the state each year – and Massachusetts has the lowest rate of gun violence in the United States.

“I mean, that’s crazy,” Neipp said.

On Wednesday, Neipp hosted a gathering in the community room of the Franklin Community Co-op at 170 Main St., where a few volunteers cut out orange hearts and wrote down the names of the victims to appear on the Greenfield Common between 6 and 7 a.m.: 30 o’clock on June 7.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 48,830 people died from gun-related injuries in the United States in 2021. And not only are gunshot victims often plagued by lifelong injuries and trauma, but Neipp, a public health nurse, said the cost to the U.S. health care system is also enormous. Firearm deaths and injuries cost the state $3.5 billion, of which $85.4 million is paid by taxpayers.

“If they didn’t have a gun in their hand, they couldn’t shoot,” she said. “And I know you can’t take away all guns, but we can certainly work on legislation that makes it very difficult for a 16-year-old to walk around with a gun.”

Neipp, Belchertown resident Deborah Queiros and Amherst resident Elisabeth Cantor chatted as they cut out orange hearts and talked about the gun violence epidemic. Queiros said she visited the Tampa Riverwalk in Florida the day before a shooting occurred. Neipp said she knows a woman — now with the gun violence prevention organization Moms Demand Action — whose friend and classmate were killed in the 1992 shooting at Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington, which also left a professor dead.

The three women said they were pleased with the recent involuntary manslaughter convictions of James and Jennifer Crumbley, the parents of Ethan Robert Crumbley, a 15-year-old boy who killed four students and wounded seven people with their gun at Oxford High School in Oxford. Michigan in 2021.

Cantor said the convictions will “turn the tide a little bit.”

More information about Wear Orange is available at wearorange.org.

Reach Domenic Poli at: [email protected] or 413-930-4120.