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Group gathers in Marion Square to call for action on gun violence

Published: Jun. 20, 2021 at 6:25 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 20, 2021 at 11:43 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A group of around two dozen people gathered in Marion Square Sunday afternoon to call for action to reduce gun violence in the community.

The rally, put on by the nonprofit group Motivate to Educate, drew community advocates, local leaders and even lawmakers, who agree something needs to be done to address gun violence.

“We are tired of having to hold their hands and cry with mommies and daddies and spouses and parents and grandparents,” Charleston County Coroner Bobbi Jo O’Neal told the group.

While it may be Father’s Day, their message is aimed at mothers and other women, who speakers argued hold the social clout to encourage young people – especially young men – to make better choices and turn away from violence.

“When you have your mother, your sister, your wife, your girlfriend, your grandma, all the women in your family in your face telling you to change, then you’re going to think about it. You have nowhere to run, no safety net, and then that’s going to... something will sync in your head,” Tony Lewis, the founder and president of Motivate to Educate, said.

Several speakers argued lawmakers need to pass what they called common sense gun legislation like expanded gun background checks and a bill to close the so-called “Charleston loophole” that allowed the man who shot and killed nine people at Mother Emanuel AME church six years ago this week to be able to buy a gun.

And for some, it was personal.

“Until we get it together and stop sitting on the Titanic playing as the ship goes down, our boys are going to continue to be killed, our husbands are going to stop coming home and our children are not going to have their parents,” Sen. Margie Bright Matthews (D-Colleton) said.

While some acknowledge they don’t have all the answers to solve the problem, Motivate to Educate board member Merrill Chapman stressed “it takes everyone and their neighbor to stop gun violence.”

“We’re not going to put a total end to it, but we can decrease the number and we’re not going to have to have a massacre every single day or two or three every day,” she said.

The group was also set to hold a march downtown this afternoon but canceled that due to the weather.

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