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Lyon graduate advocates for gun violence awareness

For the second year in a row, Jennifer Pitts, '19, has successfully advocated for the first Friday in June to be declared National Gun Violence Awareness Day in the City of Batesville.

As a member of Batesville’s chapter of Moms Demand Action, Pitts contacted Batesville Mayor Rick Elumbaugh, and he signed the proclamation on Thursday, May 30.

“It’s amazing what can happen if you just take the time to talk with people,” said Pitts. 

The proclamation states that as part of National Gun Violence Awareness Day, citizens are encouraged to wear orange to raise awareness. 

The day is set aside to honor Hadiya Pendleton, a Chicago teenager shot and killed in 2013, as well as the 100 Americans killed or injured every day as the result of gun violence.

Pitts said she has always been an advocate for gun violence awareness and environmental issues, but after the Parkland shooting in 2018, she started focusing exclusively on gun violence awareness.

“It just wasn’t okay for me to be on the sidelines anymore,” she said.

Last year, she and fellow citizens started Batesville’s chapter of Moms Demand Action (Moms), the largest gun violence prevention organization in the U.S. The Batesville chapter is one of several in Arkansas.

“It’s important to start in little towns like Batesville, so community members can talk about guns, and it not be this issue that makes people get angry or defensive,” she said. “It’s just about our safety.”

Pitts explained that the focus of Moms is not to get rid of guns but rather to focus on gun safety.

“Yes, have your guns, but we want them to be locked up so that the children in your home can’t get access to them. Access to a firearm makes someone three times more likely to die from suicide.” 

Pitts credits her Lyon education for her ability to be “a better community member.”

“There’s no doubt in my mind [my education] has enhanced my life,” she said. “It has allowed me to more easily see the ways that I can positively affect my community and have the confidence to engage and try to make some change happen.”

Batesville citizens are encouraged to wear orange on Friday, June 7. Moms will hold a Gun Violence Awareness event on Saturday, June 8, at Row Lake behind the Batesville Community Center from 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. The organization will collect donations for the local hospital’s children’s clinic, while visitors are invited to wear orange, listen to music, and fish in Row Lake.