Volunteers for the Arizona chapter of Moms Demand Action packed supplies for victims of domestic violence Saturday to raise awareness of the impact of gun violence as part of Wear Orange weekend.

Moms Demand Action and Wear Orange for Gun Safety are national campaigns that bring attention to lives lost to guns and seek solutions to gun violence.

Orange is the color that friends wore in honor of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton after she was shot and killed in Chicago one week after performing at then-President Barack Obama’s second inaugural parade in 2013, according to the Wear Orange for Gun Safety website.

The group designated June 8 and 9 this year as days of action, with organizations holding events across the country.

At the Phoenix event at Changing Hands Bookstore, children created artwork at a small table in the corner while the middle of the room was full of donated items that would go to women and families in need.

Volunteers packed diapers, mouthwash, lotion, shampoo, toilet paper and other hygiene items into bags to be donated to domestic-violence shelters around the Valley.

“This is just one event out of hundreds,” volunteer Geneva Haver said. “It’s very important to amplify our message that we can end gun violence, which was kind of our motto this year. And that statement alone causes people to pause, the fact that we actually can.

“We have to have the will to do it,” she continued. “We’re working to change legislation. We have educational campaigns to keep kids safe around guns. And we’re trying to change our culture as well. So it’s gonna take all of us.” 

The Arizona chapter of Moms Demand Action focused on domestic-violence victims in 2019 because, according to an Everytown for Gun Safety report, Arizona’s rate of intimate-partner homicides is 45% higher than the national average.

This year in Arizona, there have been 46 deaths related to domestic violence, many of them involving guns, according to the Arizona Coalition to End Domestic Violence.

“Arizona has a serious problem with domestic violence,” volunteer Edie Smith said. “I think there are probably too many guns. … (Everyone is) afraid of being shot because there’s so many guns around, and there are so few restrictions on guns.”

Smith has volunteered for Moms Demand Action for the past three years, but she’s been active in the movement to end gun violence since 2001, she said.

Her niece, Shannon, was killed in 1999.

Shannon was talking on the telephone in her backyard when she was shot, Smith said.

“A bullet dropped out of the sky. It was about 10:30 at night. She had just graduated from eighth grade and she was getting ready to go to high school,” Smith said. 

“Her father went out to get her, and she was lifeless. They didn’t even know what it was. They took her to the hospital and discovered she’d been shot by a bullet that could have been fired as far as five miles away. This was devastating — devastating for the whole community, frankly,” she said.

“It turned out that celebratory gunfire was a problem in Phoenix,” Smith said. “My brother said, ‘Well, why doesn’t somebody do something about this?’ Turns out it was only a misdemeanor. People would just get fined.”

Shannon’s Law was passed in 2000. It made firing a gun into the air a felony.

“The whole community got behind it because this was such a horrible thing to happen, and it has reduced gun violence,” Smith said.

Another volunteer, Irene Diaz, lost a sister to gun violence in 1990.

“My sister was in a marriage where there was domestic violence, and I found out about what was happening in her life because I was in a courtroom listening to my mother testify at the murder trial,” Diaz said. 

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She learned there had been two previous incidents that involved guns before her sister was murdered, Diaz said.

“One where her husband had held her at gunpoint. Another one where her husband had actually shot at her. And the third time, he actually murdered her,” she said. “She was only 30 years old when he murdered her.”

Diaz said one goal this year was to pass Senate Bill 1219 at the Arizona Legislature, which would have required people to relinquish their guns while being investigated for domestic violence.

“It never made it to the floor of the Senate,” she said. “We just wanted a debate — something — and it didn’t even get a debate, so that’s upsetting.”

Diaz spoke about why Arizona’s rate of domestic-partner homicide is so high compared with other states.

“I think one of the things could be the fact that when there’s a domestic-violence misdemeanor, or an order of protection, it’s at the judge’s discretion whether the person with that order has to relinquish any firearms, and sometimes they fail to do that,” Diaz said.

“We’ll keep trying, because that’s what you have to do with legislation,” Smith said. “That’s what happened with Shannon’s Law.”

“It may not affect you personally,” Haver said, “but when you start hearing about everyday gun violence, you realize that it could happen any moment. It’s gonna take all of us to get involved and start working.”

She quoted “Fight Like a Mother,” a book that Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts recently published.

“She talks about how all these actions are like drops of water on a stone, and that’s what carved the Grand Canyon,” Haver said. “All of us moms — and we’re not all moms, we’re dads, we’re aunts, we’re uncles — any concerned citizen who works on this, we’re all little drops of water. So we’re going to do this. No doubt.”

Signs abusive relationship may turn deadly

A study in the National Institute of Justice Journal revealed risk factors that suggest an abused person may be killed by her or his intimate partner.

Take the Danger Assessment at www.dangerassessment.org.

Risks of being killed increase when: 

  • Physical violence has increased in severity or frequency over the past year.
  • Your partner owns a gun.
  • You have left after living together during the past year.
  • Your partner is unemployed.
  • Your partner has used a weapon against you or threatened you with a lethal weapon.
  • Your partner has threatened to kill you.
  • Your partner has avoided being arrested for domestic violence.
  • You have a child who is not your partner’s biological child.
  • Your partner has forced you to have sex.
  • Your partner has tried to choke you.
  • Your partner uses illegal drugs.
  • Your partner is an alcoholic.
  • Your partner controls most or all of your daily activities.
  • Your partner is violently and constantly jealous of you.
  • Your partner has beaten you while you were pregnant.
  • Your partner has threatened to hurt your children.
  • You believe your partner is capable of killing you.
  • Your partner follows or spies on you, leaves threatening messages, destroys your belongings or calls you when you don’t want them to.
  • You have threatened or tried to commit suicide.

Where to get help

If you or a loved one needs help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). The organization’s website also provides a 24/7 live chat service. All calls and chats are free and confidential.

Help for abusers:

Help for victims:

  • Arizona Coalition To End Domestic Violence: 602-279-2900, 800-782-6400, [email protected]www.acesdv.org.
  • Maricopa County shelters: 602-263-8900.
  • 24-hour domestic-violence hotline: 800-799-7233.
  • Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network: 800-656-4673, www.rainn.org.

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