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Rest In Peace? Live In Peace, Say Gun Violence Activists

Josh James
A display set up during Lexington's National Gun Violence Awareness Day event on June 2, 2017.

Mayor Jim Gray and Lexington Police Chief Mark Barnard joined activists with Moms Demand Action to mark National Gun Violence Awareness Day Friday.

Names of local victims were read aloud before a moment of silence.

Anita Franklin, whose son Antonio was shot and killed in Duncan Park in 2014, encouraged community members to take steps to counter a culture where violence is becoming normalized.

"Our kids have to stop saying 'rest in peace' and starting living in peace," Franklin told WUKY. "We have to teach people accountability."

Thursday, Gov. Matt Bevin met with religious leaders at Western Middle School in Louisville to unveil his admittedly "simple" suggestion: regular walks and prayer in hard-hit neighborhoods. Bevin’s comments drew a range of responses, from praise to derision.

"That is very much a part of it, but that can't be the only thing," says local Moms Demand Action leader Lynsey Sugarman. "We need policies. We need support. We need it to be just one piece of a larger picture."

State Senator Reggie Thomas, a Democrat, sees a role for lawmakers. "I want to see us as elected officials do something because it affects everyone. It doesn't have to do with party or partisan philosophies. It has to do with being human beings," he explains.

Thomas filed a bill last year that would allow local governments to pass customized gun control rules, an idea bound to meet with immediate resistance in the Republican-dominated General Assembly.

Mayor Jim Gray stresses the positive impact of community conversation, like the ones he hopes the One Lexington initiative will spark.

"What we're doing in Lexington is what is, I find, important," he tells reporters. "Lexington is one of the safest cities in the country, but still one murder is too many. This is why working with our police, working with our community like these moms today and these families... that's what brings a community together."

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