SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - A vigil to honor lives lost to gun violence was held Thursday evening at the United Church of Christ on Beneva Road.
It’s an annual event hosted by the Sarasota Brady Chapter who said their goal is to raise awareness and rally support for stricter gun laws.
Organizers said this vigil is one of hundreds that have been held around the country this month to mark the 7th year since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
“It’s becoming so commonplace. We see things, [we’re] like okay well maybe Columbine would’ve changed things, maybe Sandy Hook would’ve changed things, maybe Pulse, maybe Vegas, maybe Parkland,” said Kyleanne Hunter, the featured speaker at the vigil.
But things haven’t changed, these mass shootings just keep happening.
Twenty-six students and educators were killed in Connecticut on December 14th, 2012 and almost exactly seven years later, another shooting took three more lives at a Naval Air Station in Pensacola.
“Which is a place that’s near and dear to my heart having spent several years up there at flight school," said Hunter.
She attended flight school to later become a combat helicopter pilot in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. Marine Corps veteran has seen first hand the damage done using an assault weapon.
“These are guns that are designed to kill as many people as quickly as possible," said Hunter. “In combat situations, they might have a place, but they don’t have any place in our places of peace in this country."
Hunter’s message to the attendees lining the church pews at the vigil - people can support the second amendment and call for a ban on assault rifles.
“I’m a gun owner myself and guns are fun to shoot for sporting," she said. “There are guns that are great for hunting, there are even guns that people can bring in for self defense, but assault weapons aren’t those guns.”
Encouraging lawmakers to pass “sensible gun laws” is what the members of the Sarasota Brady Chapter say they spend all year promoting. To members, this includes universal background checks, banning assault weapons, registering those that are already out there and taking guns out of the hands of extremists or people with declining mental health.
“So that you don’t have guns in the wrong hands, said Carol Rescigno, president of the Sarasota Brady Chapter. “If you’re legal and you own a gun and you’re careful, that’s the American way.”
They’re calling and writing to legislators, hosting events and educating the public to spread the word.
“We just want to make sure people know we’re not trying to grab their guns," said Rescigno. "We just want a safer world and we ask gun owners, we ask people who say they are second amendment proponents to join us!”
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