CHAPEL HILL — Rayburn Simms didn’t see his 31st birthday; he didn’t see his four children grow up, and he didn’t see his new grandchild.
Simms was fatally shot May 21, 2005, after he was involved in a wreck at a Durham intersection. The homicide remains unsolved.
Gun advocates talk about the right to own a firearm, but Simms and others like him also have a right to live, his mother, Joslin Simms, said.
America loses 86 people to gun violence every day, leaving folks to wonder when someone in their community might be next, Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said.
About three dozen people joined him Wednesday at Peace and Justice Plaza on East Franklin Street to launch a new, national gun violence prevention group named Everytown for Gun Safety.
Speakers included Mayors Darryl Moss of Creedmoor and Lydia Lavelle of Carrboro, Durham City Council member Eddie Davis and nonprofit leaders Marcia Owen, director of the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham, and Kaaren Haldeman, North Carolina chapter leader for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. This was one of 10 Everytown for Gun Safety launch events nationwide, organizers said.
“We’re not trying to take away your rights,” Simms said. “Everyone has a right to defend their homes and their lives.
“We want these people to take these guns out of the hands of people who are too young to know what it does to us, (to those) who are mentally unstable, who have anger issues, who are getting these guns,” she said.
Everytown for Gun Safety brings together Moms Demand Action, a grass-roots group founded the day after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Boston Mayor Tom Menino founded in 2006.
Bloomberg announced Wednesday in The New York Times that he pledged $50 million to reduce gun violence and support Everytown’s educational and advocacy efforts.
The federal government failed its citizens last year by not passing laws that require comprehensive gun background checks, said Kleinschmidt, a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Everytown for Gun Safety has set its sights on getting more than a million Americans to vote this year for candidates fighting to end gun violence and pass tougher gun laws.
“For too long, the will of the vast majority of Americans has been shut out by Washington gun lobbies,” Kleinschmidt said. “Today, we gather, and our message is enough is enough.”
Gilles Rousseau has been pushing for strong gun laws since his daughter Lauren, a substitute teacher, was killed, along with most of her students at Sandy Hook. Survivors nationwide are united by their grief but also by their desire to stop gun violence, he said.
“I’m here today for Lauren, because she can’t be here,” Rousseau said, stopping to choke back his emotions.