NEPTUNE BEACH, Fla. – One anti-gun violence group came together to show support for those affected by gun violence and to bring awareness to the growing problem in Jacksonville for National Gun Violence Survivors Week.
The Florida chapter of Moms Demand Action held a candlelight vigil Sunday to honor survivors and families impacted by gun violence. It’s an event that shows togetherness and for some people, they believe that is the only way to reduce gun violence in the area.
Dozens came out to Neptune Beach to remembers the lives stolen by guns. Names were written in the sand and read aloud to memorialize each victim that lost their life to gun violence.
People also shared stories in hopes of reaching others to discourage people from picking up a gun to end someone’s life.
“I’m here today in honor of my son Maurice Hobbs,” Latasha Hobbs said.
Hobbs said her son died two days after his 18th birthday at the hands of a gun in 2017. She said it was day that forever changed her life.
“I found purpose in the pain. I wasn’t given a choice to walk this journey, but I do have a choice to make a difference so I choose to honor my son with action,” Hobbs said.
Making a difference, to Hobbs, means trying to prevent others from dying like her son did and rallying the community together to make that change happen.
“As far as getting to know our neighbors, if we see something, say something. I also believe that legislatively we need to take action to help make homicide harder to commit. Easy access to guns is problematic,” Hobbs said.
Katie Hathaway, a volunteer with the organization, said the purpose of gathering everyone at the beach was to empower others to speak up.
“Survivors are the foundation of the gun violence prevention movement. They are in the forefront, out in the community making sure no one walks a day in in their shoes. And the grief they suffer with every single day,” Hathaway said.
Although Hathaway hasn’t personally been impacted by gun violence, she said her reason for joining this fight was inspired by a comment her son made.
“When my child was seven, he told me his classroom was going to be the first shot up because it was the closest to the front of the school,” Hathaway said.
“My son was Leon Bennet. He was 23 years old when he was taken to gun violence down in Jacksonville Beach,” Rhonda Phillips said. “Life’s been hard to put it in good words. Life has been hard watching his boys grow up. You know they have questions. Things we can’t answer.”
Dominic Broadus’ son was killed by gun violence, and he said one way to address the issue is to start addressing mental health in the community along with gun laws.
“We need to look at these laws and change them and the way they implement these laws,” Broadus said.