BRATTLEBORO >> A local group is planning a vigil this weekend for victims of gun violence.
Ann Braden, the founder of Gun Sense Vermont, said that her group originally planned the vigil to mark the third anniversary of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., as well as the on-going toll of gun violence from domestic violence and suicide that Vermonters face.
"When we had a meeting in early October, the shooting at the community college in Oregon had just happened," she recalled. "We wanted to show our support for all the victims of gun violence, so we decided to schedule a vigil in December. We never imagined that between then and now there would be more attacks like the one in Colorado Springs and the shooting in California. At the same time, our overriding concern is about gun violence that happens here in Vermont."
Braden said that the public is invited to join the vigil, which will take place from 11 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Dec. 12, in Pliny Park, at the corner of Main Street and High Street in Brattleboro. Speakers will include a local survivor of gun violence who has resolved to speak out on the issue.
Braden noted that the recent wave of shootings has caused a strong reaction across the country.
"A lot of people are really frustrated by how lax the gun laws are in the U.S., compared with other countries," she said. "Last week Congress refused to pass a law to limit gun sales to people on the terrorism watch list."
On Dec. 3, in the wake of the attack in San Bernardino, California, the Senate considered a bill that would not allow individuals on the federal government's "no-fly" list to purchase guns. The bill was voted down on a party-line vote, as one Democrat joined Republicans in voting against the bill, and one Republican joined all the Democrats in voting for it.
Braden commented that it was important for people not to lose faith in their power to make a difference.
"Showing our support for sensible gun safety laws is important," she said. "In the absence of any progress at the national level, taking action at the state level is critical. We know that there are fewer gun deaths in states where gun-safety laws are stronger.
"We hope a lot of people will turn out for this vigil," she went on. "Many of us are planning to wear orange as part of the national campaign to focus on gun violence. This campaign is totally non-partisan — it includes groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics.
"As a group, we need to stand up and show that the current level of gun violence is unacceptable to us — and that we refuse to become numb to it," Braden concluded. "We know we won't prevent every shooting, but we have a responsibility to all of the people who have already suffered from gun violence to come together in support."