“The bullet pierced into the center of his heart and there was nothing any of us could do.”
So noted Carla Reyes-Miller, whose son Kevin was shot and killed in June 2012. She told her story at the June 2 National Gun Violence Awareness Day at Whitman Plaza Park in Camden.
“ … Even when his arms were raised up in a surrender position, Kevin was only 19,” Reyes-Miller recalled. “I can’t even begin to share how this loss has changed our lives and our family dynamics, but I can relate the breathtaking pain that many families are facing today who have lost their loved ones due to gun violence.
“Today I am Kevin’s voice.”
The gun violence prevention group Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers held a Wear Orange rally at the event. The Wear Orange movement began after Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed after marching in President Barack Obama’s 2013 inaugural parade. Friends of the 15-year-old chose orange because it’s the color hunters wear to protect themselves.
The Camden County event was planned in partnership with Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund; Cure4Camden, a community-based violence intervention program; and the county commissioners. Community groups were in attendance to offer resources and educate people on the impact of gun violence.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, more than 18,000 Americans have died due to gun violence this year. About 8,000 of those deaths were homicides and approximately 10,000 were suicides, facts highlighted by Glassboro High School student Celest Moravec-Guerra.
“When we think gun violence, you think of mass shootings,” she noted. “But mass shootings only make up 1% of firearm homicides, A large portion of child or teen gun homicide deaths and unintentional shooting deaths and injuries occur in the home,” Moravec-Guerra added, noting that domestic violence is one reason gun deaths are on the rise.
Student, poet and Institute for the Development of Education in the Arts (IDEA) participant Tainyah Henry also shared her thoughts.
“I really just hope people honestly, as basic as it sounds, focus on less violence and seeing people through,” Henry observed. “You don’t have to agree with everything someone else does, because there are a lot of tensions with other things, too, in the world …”
Following speeches and opening remarks, guests at National Gun Violence Awareness Day shared stories and connections with community partners such as the Center for Family Services. The organization offers free programs for families that include Framing Fatherhood, a free service geared to dad and father figures that offers effective co-parenting strategies, and Baby’s Best Start, which helps parents develop relationships with their children.
“One of the key things that we really talk about is using non-violent discipline techniques,” explained Rachele Martin, who works for the center. “And just by role modeling that to our children, we are teaching them those skills to prevent violence later on.”
Some of the techniques include talking to kids about a problem before it gets too big, setting and keeping realistic expectations for them and offering positive reinforcement.
“Kids really thrive on that positive reinforcement,” Martin said, “so it makes it so much more likely that they’ll do the positive thing again when we use that.”To learn more about Moms Demand Action, visit https://momsdemandaction.org/. To learn more about Cure4Camden – run through the Center for Family Services – visit https://www.centerffs.org/our-services/trauma-victim-response/cure4camden.
Anyone with information on illegal gun purchases or possession of illegal handguns is encouraged to call the Camden County police tip line at (856) 757-7042.