Hunters wear orange to increase their visibility and help prevent accidental shootings.
Similarly, gun safety activists donned orange across the state and nation over the weekend to increase their visibility during rallies for gun violence awareness.
Dozens of people joined a Minnesota Moms Demand Action-led rally in Rochester Sunday at Assisi Heights Spirituality Center. The events were held to honor and remember people who are victims of gun violence.
Shannon Johnson, whose father, Donn Johnson, was shot and killed by a neighbor in 2017, spoke at the rally. She said expanded background checks, red flag laws and other measures can prevent other people from losing a family member to gun violence.
Johnson urged people gathered to keep pushing for legislation or for candidates who support it. A gun owner, she said measures passed by the DFL-controlled Minnesota House wouldn’t affect law-abiding owners.
The GOP-led Minnesota Senate did not take up the measure.
“I don’t understand why the gun lobby and (National Rifle Association) lobby are so against these policies,” Johnson said.
Erin Zamoff, Minnesota Moms Demand Action lead, said polls show Minnesotans support red-flag laws and universal background checks for firearm purchases. Zamoff pointed to a poll by the Star Tribune last year showing 9 out of 10 Minnesotans favor universal background checks, a ban on military-style rifles and for raising the age for gun purchases from 18 to 21.
One of two things will happen eventually, Zamoff said.
“Either the Minnesota Legislature gets on board with what an overwhelming majority of Minnesotans want, or we get new legislators,” she said. “We’re just tired of all the gun deaths.”
Zamoff told the crowd that progress may take time.
“This is a long road and it can get dark sometimes,” she said.
Rochester Mayor Kim Norton spoke at the rally. A former DFL state legislator, she said in an interview that the discussion at the legislative level usually quickly devolves away from the actual legislation.
“There’s a message of fear that someone’s coming to take away your guns,’” Norton said. “We just don’t listen to each other.”
Norton said backers of gun safety measures should contact their representatives.
“We need to make sure they understand we can do this and we have their back as their constituents,” she said.
Norton said the issue shouldn’t be partisan but has evolved into a partisan issue from what was an urban-rural split on gun issues.
Deb Johnson, Shannon Johnson’s mom, said she knows after losing her husband to gun violence in an incident on a township road, it affects everyone.
“There are people who say, ‘This doesn’t happen in a rural township, this is a city issue,’” Deb Johnson said. “It’s not.”
Rabbi Michelle Werner, who spoke at the event, referenced family members and friends of victims of gun violence such as the Johnsons. They’re victims who aren’t named or numbered in reports of gun violence.
All of society is shattered by the violence when it happens, Werner added. The acts of violence come from people who are broken too, she said, asking for compassion for them.
“We must beg for those who are broken to overcome their cowardice, anger, shame and fear,” Werner said. “We’re weary — weary of actors who speak not from their heart but from their own shattered existence.”
The orange theme of the event is also in memory of Hadiya Pendleton, whose friends wore orange in her honor after she was shot and killed in Chicago in 2013 at age 15 a week after performing at President Obama’s second inaugural parade.