Almost thirty people from churches and community organizations throughout the Thumb of Michigan gathered Thursday night in the loft of the Raven Café in downtown Port Huron for a prayer vigil remembering the victims of gun violence.
Vigil leader Bob Lotz began the gathering by honoring the thousands of deaths caused by gun violence in the United States.
On average, 32 people are murdered with a gun every day in the United States. 140 are treated for a gun assault in an emergency room.
“At a certain point, our society decides something is no longer acceptable. We decided that protecting innocent lives is more important than the right to drive home drunk. We licensed. We enforced. We need to do the same with deadly weapons,” said Lotz.
As part of her remarks, Christ Enrichment Center Executive Director Danielle Brown shared the story of her sister’s murder by an abusive ex-boyfriend in 2003.
“I want you to know my sister was murdered and we can’t take that. We must stop domestic violence at the beginning. We must say that the first time was the last chance. As saints of the Lord, we need to provide hope and resources for these people.”
The Rev. Kevin Totty of Christ Centered Community Church and the St. Clair County Juvenile Detention Center began by saying, “I want us to walk out of here with some time of action to stop this violence.”
He told the group about Marquita, a student he used to work with as part of an after school program. When she was sixteen, Marquita was brutally murdered in a drive by shooting after accepting a ride to the drug store.
Pastor Totty called on the participants to speak to their children in order to “educate, engage, and empower each and everyone to make this change.”
He ended his remarks by calling for tougher regulations including registries and universal background checks to deter crime and support law enforcement when a death or assault occurs.Currently, under federal law, private purchasing online and at gun shows is not subject to a background check, which accounts for about 40% of all gun sales. Research shows that states with background check requirements in place have significantly less gun crime, suicides, and transfers of guns out of state.
The Ven. Anna Leigh Kubbe remembered her reaction two years ago when Sandy Hook Elementary was attacked. “Sometimes when catastrophes happen, I will sit in front of CNN all day. When Sandy Hook happened I just couldn’t do it.”
“We live in an era of denial of what violence is doing to us. Instead of grieving that violence, we pack it down. We need to realize that there are tears to be shed. If we don’t grieve, we can’t have hope.”
She cited fear as a driver of violent culture saying “We fear. We fear immigrants. We fear people of color and different ethnic backgrounds. We fear, fear, fear. And so our weapons get bigger.”
One of the participants pointed across the river to the shoreline of Canada saying, “Take a page from the Canadians. Less than a mile away, people can’t buy guns like this. People don’t own guns like this. There isn’t such a fervor for it.”
Another compared the modern trend of gun ownership to frontier America citing the foundation of the country as being “built out of violence. It was ‘might makes right’ and it became part of our DNA.”Three officers from the Port Huron Police Department were in attendance and shared resources about their community policing program, which partners with other organizations to build relationships and trust between officers and residents.
Lotz sent the group out by saying “There are simple things we can do to realize a peaceful America. Listen to each other. Talk to each other. Build open communities where everyone can find a place at the table of conversation.”