Citywide vigil held on North Side calling for end to gun violence

PITTSBURGH — One by one, the names of victims of gun violence in Allegheny County were read aloud Thursday night during a vigil to stand up against gun violence. Those in attendance shared stories of incredible pain and violence.

“He’s shooting and the bullets won’t stop. My brother at that time jumps over me, shields me, and begins to get shot. I can feel the bullets going through him,” said Terrel Thomas, a gun violence survivor.

“I was one of the survivors. I helped hide people in the building from the attacker who came with his rifles,” said Rabbi Jonathan Perlman, a Pittsburgh synagogue shooting survivor.

Their stories of survival and resilience are now prompting them to fight for change, especially when it comes to protecting children.

“There’s been more younger people that are choosing the way of gun violence, as low as 15 and 13 years old, which is very sad and concerning,” said Bishop Michael Golphin.

These activists say they’re proud to lead the charge, especially since they see real change happening.

Josh Fleitman is the campaign director for CeaseFirePA, which is the commonwealth’s gun violence prevention program.

“I know that it can feel really hopeless, this crisis of gun violence, but we are making serious progress,” Fleitman said. “Just last month, because of the work of a lot of people here today, the State House representatives passed two pieces of life-saving gun legislation: a universal background check bill and an extreme orders protection bill.”

That bill now heads to the Senate. Organizers of Thursday’s event say the issue needs to take center stage on Capitol Hill.

Dana Kellerman is the policy director for Squirrel Hill Stands Against Gun Violence.

“I think it’s so important that our legislators really consider the toll this is taking on our children,” said Kellerman. “Because when they are hurting, when they are middle school, high school, they’re growing up never knowing a world that was any different and that’s not the future that we want for them.”

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