Members of the community gathered outside the Osceola County Courthouse on Monday evening, to remember and to reflect on the lives lost due to gun violence and to call for action for stricter gun laws.
Members of the group spoke about their advocacy for stricter gun laws only days after 4-year-old Michael Bragg, Jr. had access to a loaded gun in his home, resulting in him dying from a gunshot wound to the head.
Kissimmee City Commissioner Angela Eady hosted the candlelight vigil and called for more action, saying stricter gun laws would lower the amount of gun violence in minority communities.
“We have an issue of gun violence. Each and every one of us knows someone who has lost their life senselessly due to gun violence. It’s a situation that needs to stop, and we’re here to tell our elected officials that we will not tolerate this much longer. We need to get our elected officials on the same page,” Commissioner Angela said as she opened the vigil.
Dr. Amanda Wilkerson with the NAACP Osceola County said universal background checks would be a big step in preventing gun deaths, “It’s all too easy to access guns and ammunition, and what is resulting is a disproportionate impact to communities of color. I think we call agree that something has to be done. That’s the common sense thing to do when it comes to having people be responsible with guns.”
Rhonda Wallace from Florida Rises, spoke out against gun violence during the vigil.
“Words cannot express the disappointment I’m having within our judicial system, creating more powerful legislature to keep our families safe,” she said. “The violence is not serving our community well.”
“We all have steel in this, we have a part as a community, if you see something, say something,” Eady said. “You cannot sweep gun violence under the rug, It does exist. Sometimes it’s accountability. We need that too.”
“It was a drive-by, and he’s gone, and he’s never coming back,” said Paula Pinellas King, who lost her great nephew, Eric Pinellas Jr, who is oldest son of Osceola High School Head Football Coach, Eric Pinellas, “he was a young man with a great future.”
Kissimmee Police Sergeant spoke during the vigil, urging people to lock up their guns and to keep guns away from people with mental health issues and away from kids. “As a responsible gun owner, you must lock your gun up, and put it away, Sergeant Rush said.
“It hurts, it hurts, and I will say this until I take my last breath, we need laws that protect and keep us safe,” Eady said. “Sometimes, it’s accountability. We need that too.”
Meanwhile, there is a Republican measure in the current Florida legislature general session, that if passed would allow people to carry concealed weapons without a permit in Florida. The bill continues to move forward in the legislature, even though the bill has received opposition from gun rights groups.