LAURINBURG — If there is safety in numbers, a group of Scotland County residents hope their march and hundreds of others around the country with draw attention to gun safety.
More than two dozen people joined the Laurinburg branch of the National Association for University Women on Saturday marching down Main Street as part of National Gun Violence Awareness Day.
Now in it’s fourth year, National Gun Violence Awareness Day is held annually on June 1 and is meant to draw attention to shooting victims by wearing orange — a color traditionally used to evoke safety.
The #WearOrange movement was originally started by friends of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, who was shot and killed in Chicago in 2013.
At the local level, members of the NAUW were joined by the Laurinburg Police Department, educators, business owners and state officials to march down Main Street to the Scotland County Courthouse.
The group emphasized that it was not trying to infringe on people’s Second Amendment rights, but to encourage people to be responsible gun owners.
“We want you to recognize that guns do have consequences. We’re not here to ask you to give up your guns, we’re here to promote safety and anti-violence,” said Dorothy Tyson, NAUW event chair.
Scotland County Schools Assistant Superintendent of Auxiliary Services Larry Johnson; Chairman of the Scotland County Reentry Council Christopher Mitchell; Rep. Garland Pierce and Laurinburg Police Chief Darwin “Duke” Williams served as guest speakers.
“I work everyday to make sure our kids are safe, but we need help. We have the ‘See Something, Say Something’ model, that goes not only for students, but parents as well,” said Johnson. “If you see something in your community, reach out to law enforcement because the last thing we need in our county is something we’ve seen on the national news — gun violence in our schools.”
Williams said it’s important that parents teach their children morals and values, because guns are easy to come by.
“I was the youngest of five, mama didn’t have to tell me much. I learned from my older siblings,” said Williams. “We need to tell our kids what’s important. We live in a day and age where guns are plentiful and easy to come by. As soon as we get 10 off the street, and I have Cpt. Young with me, he can attest to this, there are 10 more. What we need is honest dialogue with each other. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when, unless we don’t get out in front of this.”
The Scotland County Sheriff’s Office also provided free gun locks for those who were interested. The cable gun locks prevent the firing of a weapon by blocking the barrel to ensure the gun isn’t accidentally fired by a child or someone who is unfamiliar with firearms.
In addition to the #WearOrange movement the NAUW encouraged the 30 people that participated to “Be SMART”
SMART is an acronym that stands for:
— Secure all guns in your homes and vehicles.
— Model responsible behavior around guns.
— Ask about the presence of unsecured guns in other homes.
— Recognize the risks of teen suicide.
— Tell your peers to be SMART.
Amber Hatten-Staley can be reached at 910-506-3170 or [email protected]