Rarely a day goes by without a murder in the District of Columbia. In fact, there have been approximately six gun-related deaths a week since January 1, 1993--an alarming level of violence that many local citizens are no longer willing to accept.
Through a campaign called "A Community Cries Out," the Washington Black-Jewish Dialogue decided to turn their outrage into action. Each Thursday from March 18 through May 6, the dialogue--together with other groups, including Sojourners--organized noontime vigils in front of the National Rifle Association (NRA) headquarters. The vigils, which grew in size each week, were designed to raise awareness of the growing level of gun-related violence and to generate support for gun control legislation.
By targeting the NRA, the demonstrators joined a rapidly growing opposition to the powerful gun lobby, making clear they feel that the policies of the NRA are both destructive and irresponsible. "We are trying to create an opportunity for people all across the Washington area to stand up and call for an end to the suffering caused by the easy access to guns," said Rev. Albert Gallmon Jr., pastor of Washington's Mt. Carmel Baptist Church.
On one Thursday, the advocates were joined by the father of a 28-year-old woman who was recently killed in a random drive-by shooting. In an emotional testimony, the father shared both his grief and his frustration with the wide availability of firearms. And while he was thankful for the media coverage of his own tragedy, he asked that the same attention be given to the majority of D.C.'s homicide victims who are young, African-American men. "If we want peace in this town," he said, "we need to care about each and every life."
Facing Racism at Home