In 2014, Shawn Moss was gunned down on a city street and left for dead.
On Saturday — nearly five years after the 34-year-old’s untimely death — Moss’ mother stood in a crowded gym, draped in an orange lei, and spoke about her son.
Shawn was “not a number. He was my oldest son,” said Brenda Moss. “He was my blood. He was mine, and I’m going to give him a voice whether anyone else does or not.”
Moss, a member of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, spoke before a crowd of families and friends of local victims impacted by gun violence at the Jubilee Family Development Center.
In a passionate and emotional speech, she called on the more than 200 people in attendance to support “common sense gun reforms,” including universal background checks and red flag laws, which allow authorities to temporarily take firearms away from people deemed a threat to themselves or others.
“My purpose and my assignment is to end gun violence,” Moss said. “Let me make something perfectly clear. I do not want your guns. I do not want your rights. I want you to be responsible for the choice that you have made.”
The event at Jubilee was among hundreds held across the country in recent days as part of “Wear Orange Weekend” — an annual campaign promoting gun violence prevention. The initiative was launched in 2013 after 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed in Chicago. Orange was Pendleton’s favorite color, and her friends began wearing orange clothing to honor her memory and to raise awareness.
On Saturday, orange blanketed Jubilee.
“To me, today is about the community’s message of love,” said Sterling Wilder, Jubilee’s executive director and the Ward II representative on city council. “We’re supporting one another, we’re showing love to one another and we’re recognizing those family members who’ve lost loved ones.”
Throughout the three-hour-long event, organizers distributed free gun locks and raffled off gift cards and other prizes. Volunteers helped register people to vote and offered information on rights restoration. Children played in an inflatable bounce house and decorated themselves with face paint. At a memory wall, visitors pinned notes of love under photos of victims.
Among the photos on the wall were those of Dre’yon Browley, an 18-year-old E.C. Glass student killed in a shooting last month. Some of his classmates and family members attended the event in his honor. They spoke of Browley’s boundless energy and caring personality. His uncle, Shaquille Cook, said the family hopes to use the tragedy to prevent future ones.
“We want to put senseless violence away,” Cook said. “When you think about the violence that happens with these guns on the street, there’s no reason for any of that. Guns are for you to protect yourself and your family, and that should be the last resort.”
The Lynchburg chapter of Moms Demand Action now is working to create a network of local survivors of gun violence. They also hope to partner with other city institutions to raise awareness, including Lynchburg City Schools. As Moss sees it, the work to prevent gun violence is everyone’s responsibility.
“What I really want people to understand,” she said, “is it’s going to take a community. It’s going to take all of us working together.”
Richard Chumney covers breaking news and public safety for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5547.