HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Local faith groups are marking Gun Violence Awareness and Prevention Day and working towards solutions to end violent crime.
Heeding God’s Call to End Gun Violence brings together different faith organizations to tackle the issue. The organization said these gun violence prevention events are more important than ever: The problem is getting worse.
“We’re losing people every day,” board member Harvey Freedenberg said.
Heeding God’s Call brought together people of all faiths Sunday, marking the day with prayer and song and talking about solutions.
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“We’ve already lost 13 people in the Harrisburg community in 2022,” Freedenberg said.
People signed letters to state legislators supporting gun control legislation. Heeding God’s Call advocates for an assault weapons ban, more background checks and a limit on handgun purchases to one every month.
“These guns are purchased through licensed gun dealers and then sold on the streets and then they’re used in criminal activity,” Freedenberg said.
The work is also about remembering victims. The group walked from Kingdom Embassy church to a memorial along Front Street.
“It hit me hard because it was me,” gun violence survivor Rickey Banks.
Banks was almost a name on a gun violence memorial. At 16, he was shot in the head. The injury blinded him, landing him in the hospital for 90 days.
“I thought I died twice,” Banks said.
His road to recovery was long. Banks said he had to relearn everything, including how to walk and how to eat with a fork and knife again. However, he eventually went back to school, and now, he is trying to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.
“That’s my goal in my life, to show the brothers and sisters to throw the gun down, pick the book up,” he said.
Banks says it starts with giving kids something to get involved in, whether it is school or a job.
“Give these kids an opportunity, a second chance,” he said.
Reaching out to young people is also part of Heeding God’s Call’s mission.
“We would reach out to high school students,” Freedenberg said.
For Banks and Freedenberg, seeing and hearing the names of those lost is a reminder the violence needs to end.
“I understand what [you are] going through, and I’m asking [you all], can [you all] please stop?” Banks said.
Freedenberg said with the gun violence deaths already this year, Harrisburg is, “Way ahead of pace to set a record that we don’t want to set in this community.”
Sunday was Heeding God’s Call’s first gun violence prevention day in over two years. They hope these events and memorials push more people to take action.