People wearing orange shirts were peppered along the State House grounds on Saturday honoring the lives of the thousands who die every year as a result of gun violence.
The Columbia event was one of more than half a dozen “Wear Orange” events held throughout the state between Friday and Saturday as part of National Gun Violence Awareness Day. The event is organized by nationally by Everytown for Gun Safety and locally by the S.C. chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
Orange is chosen as the color that honors a teen who was killed in Chicago in 2013. It’s also a color that demands to be seen, according to their site.
During Saturday’s very warm morning, several speakers addressed the crowd of about 100, including Columbia Major Steve Benjamin, who read a proclamation declaring June 2 Gun Violence Awareness Day in the city.
Stephanie Greene, of Columbia, also shared with the crowd how her son, a 21-year-old Army Soldier returned safely from a deployment to Kuwait, but died on American soil in 2012 from a shot to the head. Saturday would have been Preston Brown’s 27th birthday, she said.
Brown was stationed in Texas, when he and friends went out. While standing in a parking lot, a fight broke out nearby. Someone involved in the fight shot into the air, but another shot into the crowd, Greene said. Brown was struck in the head. He rushed to the hospital, where he was declared brain dead eight days later. Another soldier was also shot and killed.
Greene said Brown’s commanding officer first said her son was in an accident. It made her think her son would recover.
“When he said he was shot in the head, it just took me,” Greene said. “A lot of what happened that day I can’t remember.”
Greene said she participates in event, because shootings happen so frequently they could happen to anyone. She said she wanted to raise awareness to those who engage in gun violence to understand that if they go to prison for their actions, they are also hurting their own families.
The fact that the State House served as a backdrop for the event also did not go unnoticed by Rev. Brenda Lynn Kneece, an executive minister with the South Carolina Christian Action Council. The organization opposes some of the bills introduced during the 2017 Legislative session that sought to expand access to firearms.
“We want to make sure that a person who is legally, constitutionally entitled to own a gun is also completely vetted,” Kneece said. “We do not beleive that we need open carry in this state, and we don’t need to be opening all venues to guns.”
Kneece said the council aims to keep legislation in the “arena of common sense” and life producing. She acknowledged that those who want to carry out “evil deeds” will find ways to access firearms. But she stressed how Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook and other law enforcement officials have voiced concern with legislation that would clear the way for open carrying of a firearm in the Palmetto State.
“I don’t believe it is life giving to return to the Wild Wild West to where no matter where I am I have to know who’s got a gun,” Kneece said. “I want to believe nobody has a gun where I am unless they legally can have it.”