Memorial honors gun violence victims with 45,000 flowers on National Mall

WASHINGTON — Federal data shows more people are dying from gun violence nationwide.

The CDC reports homicides rose during the pandemic, with some of the highest increases being among African Americans.

A new memorial in the nation’s capital is honoring those victims.

Just beyond the Washington Monument, you’ll find 45,000 flowers lining the grassy lawn as a tribute.

“We all go to funerals, but, when it’s a child, it’s just so tough. It’s the ‘what could have been,’” said Linda Harllee Harper, who visited the memorial this week.

Advocates say the flowers represent the more than 45,000 people who died from gun violence in 2020 based on recent CDC data. Within the memorial, 5,000 of those flowers are orange instead of white. Gun safety advocates say this represents the increase in gun violence. They say about 5,000 more people died in 2020 compared to 2019.

One of those deaths being represented is that of Davon McNeal, an 11-year-old who was shot and killed on July 4, 2020 in Washington, D.C.

“His loss was a loss to the whole community,” said Harper.

Harper knows Davon’s mother, and she runs the Washington Office of Gun Violence Prevention.

She’s hopeful this visual representation of grief reaches Congress, where gun restrictions are up for debate.

Harper says something must change, especially for young people who are coping with these tragedies, too.

“Their friends are being traumatized by losing a friend, by being exposed to the trauma way too young — like whole classrooms of kids going to honor their classmates,” said Harper. “It’s a lot that we’re putting our children through.”

It’s a pain that Lucretia Hughes Klucken said she knows all too well.

“What are you going to do to regulate evil because it’s never going anywhere,” she said.

Klucken said her youngest son was shot and killed in 2016, and, as an NRA member, she believes more gun control isn’t the answer.

“I’m a strong advocate for the second amendment, for our law enforcement, for our parents being able to protect themselves, for us to be able to protect ourselves,” said Klucken, a member of DC Project’s Women for Gun Rights.

She wants more security at gun-free zones, like schools.

“I’d rather train you the proper way on firearm control than for them to take our weapons,” said Klucken.

As the debate continues on Capitol Hill, those flowers remain until Saturday as a reminder of the lives lost too soon.

This same CDC report shows young Black men between ages 10 to 44 had the largest increase in homicide rates in 2020.