GAGV member, Gloria Hiller, uses her sheltering-in place time, not only to model our current safety measures, but also to send out an important message related to gun violence.
Vision Quilt is pleased to announce our newest partnership with Grandparents Against Gun Violence (GAGV).
A nonprofit from the Kansas City metropolitan area, GAGV focuses on reducing gun violence at home, at school, and in the community. They have enthusiastically adopted the Vision Quilt program, and GAGV members have begun making panels at home while sheltering-in-place. We invited GAGV's dynamic Executive Director, Judy Sherry, to write a guest blog post, below, which describes her organization’s work and their vision for collaborating with Vision Quilt.
I had been concerned about gun violence for many years. I responded in shock and horror to the Columbine massacre on April 20,1999, and continued to read about the rising toll of gun deaths in the following years. Shortly after the Aurora shooting in July of 2012, I was inspired after hearing a wonderful Presbyterian minister, James Atwood, who had long been outspoken about gun violence. He had just completed his first book -- America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose -- and was passionate about the issue. (Reverend Atwood died June 27, 2020 at age 85 from complications of COVID-19.)
Shortly after hearing Rev. Atwood, the tragedy of Sandy Hook occurred on December 14, 2012. I mourned with the parents and families who lost their beautiful babies, and their teachers. I believed that surely their lost lives would be honored by the passage of sensible gun regulations – starting with background checks. When the pleas of these families went unanswered, I realized it was time for me to become an activist and address the horrifying increase of firearm possession in our country. I wanted to address the position of guns as 2nd amendment “right”, but I was even more concerned about their use to resolve conflicts, settle old scores, and more.
Grandmothers Against Gun Violence was formed in 2013 by an activist friend and me in Kansas City. Our first meeting was attended by 30 people, mostly our friends and acquaintances. Our organization has since grown to include 300 dues paying members, and a database of 2,000 supporters. Today, seven years later, we remain a group of interesting, interested men and women (we changed our name in 2014 to Grandparents Against Gun Violence). We are touched by, and committed to, preventing the heartbreaking instances of gun violence.
A statistic that shocks most people is this: of the 40,000 firearm deaths annually, one-third are homicide and two-thirds are suicides or accidental deaths. Clearly, the alarming increase in incidents of homicide are tragic, and we must work to reduce them. However, they result from many systemic problems of society. Our hope is that the Black Lives Matter movement has opened the eyes of the people in our country to these inequities and we will now begin to address them.
The focus and passion of our organization is on educating the public about the various forms of gun violence and promoting gun safety. We accomplish this through our “Lock It For Love” project, which distributes high-quality gun locks and educational materials at events throughout the Kansas City metro area. Since July 2018, we have participated in over 115 community events and distributed close to 3,000 locks. By teaching people the importance of safely locking and storing their firearms, we believe we have saved at least one distraught person from taking a long-term solution to a short-term problem, as well as saved a curious toddler from accidentally discharging a firearm. We have worked with many wonderful people these past seven years and formed local partnerships with the police departments throughout the metro area, Children’s Mercy Hospital, and various suicide prevention groups. On a national level we are affiliated with States United Against Gun Violence.
I am particularly excited about our newest partnership with Vision Quilt, as we share the common goal of educating the public about gun violence. I am inspired by the passion of founder, Cathy DeForest, and excited to explore this new avenue to involve our members and reach the community.
Our goal is to add 100 new panels to the national Vision Quilt and to use the panels created by our members as part of our ongoing work in Kansas City. Like many other organizations, GAGV has been impacted by the pandemic, and the need for sheltering in place. However, we are confident that when we can safely re-open, we will reach people throughout our community to get them involved. We will follow the highly successful Vision Quilt model of hosting workshops, working in the schools and in our case, using our “Lock It For Love” events to introduce Kansas Citian to this opportunity.
We are inspired by Vision Quilt and know our partnership will enable us to move closer to achieving our vision that all people in our community are safe from gun violence.
Jodi Dinkins wears the Vision Quilt panel she created for GAGV during a recent event in Kansas City.
For her Vision Quilt panel, Rebecca Matthews honors Mike Moser,
a GAGV partner and friend who was killed while answering a domestic violence call.
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