On Saturday, June 8, as part of the fifth annual Wear Orange Weekend, local volunteers with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America were joined by more than 100 people at two community events in Frederick. The idea of Wear Orange is simple — to honor the 100 Americans shot and killed, and hundreds more wounded, by guns every day, and to commit to one another to do more to end this epidemic.
While families and communities were gathering for these events, state Sen. Michael Hough, who represents Frederick and Carroll counties, seemed to misunderstand the purpose of the events. Over social media, the lawmaker accused these local businesses of partnering with “highly political and partisan organization.” In response, a small group of his supporters went so far as to call for boycotts of the events.
The irony of Sen. Hough’s actions is clear. He attacked a nonpartisan group of volunteers and gun safety advocates trying to keep communities safe, but then called us “extremists” in a fundraising email. Most Americans know there’s a lot more we can do to reduce gun violence without infringing on anyone’s Second Amendment rights. That’s why so many people in Frederick County and across the country came together during Wear Orange Weekend to say enough is enough.
In addition to partnering with local businesses, we planted an “Orange Garden” outside the Federated Charities Building and held a family-friendly event at Sky Stage in downtown Frederick, with speakers, dancers, musicians, and artwork from local students. The events were supported by other community groups, including Heartly House, which provides services for victims and survivors of intimate partner violence, and the Frederick Center, which serves our LGBTQ community. Local churches and synagogues put out orange lights and distributed awareness ribbons. Across the country, more than 850 events took place as part of National Gun Violence Awareness Day, observed every year on the first Friday in June, and the Wear Orange Weekend that follows.
The story of Wear Orange began with the love of a group of high school students in Chicago for their 15-year-old friend Hadiya Pendleton. A week after she returned home from performing with her marching band in President Obama’s second inaugural parade, Hadiya was killed at a park near her home. Her friends didn’t want her death to be ignored by a country numb to teenagers being killed by guns, so they asked their community to wear orange on her birthday, June 2. In 2015, a broad-based coalition of organizations—from the American Academy of Pediatrics to the NASCAR Hall of Fame—took up these students’ call to action and created an annual national awareness campaign. The color orange has a long and proud history in the gun violence prevention movement as a symbol of the value of human life. Whether it’s worn by hunters to say, “Don’t shoot!” or students in Chicago, orange is the color of safety, and it’s a bright, hopeful color that won’t be ignored.
Regardless of whether Sen. Hough disagrees with the policy solutions Moms Demand Action advocates for, why would he attack local small businesses for raising awareness about this issue? With so many people losing their lives, it’s disheartening to see an elected representative attempting to use the issue to polarize our community and raise money.
There’s too much gun violence in our country and it’s happening on our watch. We hope Frederick’s small-business owners let Sen. Hough know how they feel about being bullied for choosing to stand with those affected by senseless shootings. And we encourage his constituents to let him know it’s time to start being a leader by having a respectful conversation about preventing gun violence, not by causing a rift in our community. When firearms are the second leading cause of death for American children and teens, it’s time we come together to find common-sense solutions that will save lives.
Terri Mawdsley, founder and local group lead 2014-2016
Susan Smith, local group lead 2016-2018
Amanda O’Neal, local group co-lead 2018-present
Meredith Ericksen, local group co-lead 2018-present
Moms Demand Action