Seeing Orange

Tucson continues the fight for common-sense gun laws

Deborah Parker’s granddaughter Patrice talks at the local March for Our Lives event, about her young mother’s murder by gunfire.
Deborah Parker’s granddaughter Patrice talks at the local March for Our Lives event, about her young mother’s murder by gunfire.

Orange is the color worn by hunters to signal to other hunters that they're human—so please, don't shoot.

Americans nationwide will come together with a united message on Wear Orange Weekend, June 1 through 3: Stop allowing us to be shot.

Moms Demand Action, the national organization founded in the 2012 after the Sandy Hook shooting, will host a local Wear Orange event on Saturday, June 2. Community members are welcome to wear orange, remember those who lost their lives to gun violence and show support for common-sense gun legislation in Arizona.

Moms Demand Action members will hang 96 orange shirts to represent the number of people killed by firearms everyday in America, based on five years of statistics from the Center for Disease Control.

"Sadly, we had to dye more T-shirts," says Deborah Parker, an organizer with Moms Demand Action. "About a month ago, the number was 96 people killed per day by guns . . . Now, the latest CDC statistic for 2016 says that 106 people are killed per day."

Parker's daughter was murdered in 2006 at the age of 19. She was talking on the porch at a house party and was killed during a drive-by shooting, leaving behind her 9-month-old daughter.

Parker and her husband since adopted their granddaughter, Patrice. And Parker became an advocate for gun-law reform and works heavily with Moms Demand Action. Patrice, now a teen, is a local youth leader in the March for Our Lives movement.

"The person that killed my daughter was a convicted felon, a prohibited carrier and had an AR-15," Parker says. "For every one person murdered, two people are injured because of gun violence every day. This is something that affects everyone. Everyone should have a background check if they want to buy a gun."

A 2011 poll found that more than 83 percent of respondents in Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Virginia and Ohio, including more than 75 percent of gun owners polled, favor universal background checks, according to Giffords Law Center. However, state lawmakers have yet to reflect this with actual legislation. Currently, Sen. Jeff Flake has an A rating from the NRA, and Sen. John McCain has a B+.

In Arizona, ambiguous laws require only federally licensed firearm dealers to conduct background checks at the point of sale. Private citizens are not required to perform background checks during transfers of firearms, nor are they required to register them with the state.

"We want to show people how to connect with their representatives," Parker says. Mi Familia Vota will be at the Wear Orange event from 3 to 5 p.m. to register people to vote in November's upcoming midterm elections.

Tucson City Council Member Steve Kozachik says we need to change the composition of the state legislature and governor's office in order to pass common sense gun laws.

"If we don't, we're just going to keep having these vigils and mass shootings," he says. "It doesn't matter if you're in a school, a church or a movie theater . . . there is nowhere safe as long as we've got guys like at the Arizona State Legislature making the rules."

Kozachik became an advocate for rational gun laws after former-Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head at a Tucson grocery store in 2011. Kozachik has worked to enact universal background check requirements throughout Tucson City Limits. However, Pima County has not followed his lead, and legal gun shows are still held at the Pima County Fairgrounds.

"If it's legal to sell someone a gun on the street corner, and you don't know anything about their criminal or psychological background, then there's something wrong." he says. "There's something fundamentally broken in this state."

Kozachick and Moms Demand Action are also working to support proposed Red Flag Laws. Red Flag Laws would allow law enforcement and family members to obtain court orders prohibiting sales of firearms to persons exhibiting signs of distress or unease, i.e. red flags.

Red Flag Laws were passed in Florida after the Parkland shooting last February when Nikolas Cruz, a reported threat, was able to legally purchase firearms and murdered 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Moms Demand Action member Patricia Maisch, who was deemed a hero when she helped disarm Giffords' shooter seven years ago, says if someone needs to obtain a gun in five minutes, they probably shouldn't have one.

The state legislature refused to vote on the Red Flag Laws in January 2017, and the bill has yet to make it to the floor for a vote.

In the US, there are more gun stores than Starbucks and McDonalds combined, according to the 2016 documentary Under the Gun by Katie Couric and Stephanie Soechtig. The documentary, parts of which were filmed in Pima County, showcases the ease and accessibility of acquiring firearms in Arizona.

"This is the wild wild west," Kozachik says. "We have state legislators who would go through separation anxiety if they were separated from their guns."

Marissa Ryan is a University of Arizona journalism student and Tucson Weekly intern.

Correction: Mom Demands Action decided to hang 96 shirts, based on five years of CDC data, rather than 106, based on 2016 numbers for that year alone, after the print version of this story ran.

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