Editors of the National Rifle Association's magazine, America's 1st Freedom, attacked a national plan to honor Hadiya Pendleton, the Chicago teenager whose 2013 shooting death made national headlines, and draw attention to all victims of gun violence, calling it "pointless."
June 2 will mark the country's first National Gun Violence Awareness Day. A national campaign organized by the Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund has asked Americans to wear the color orange to honor victims of gun violence. The "Wear Orange" campaign organizers say they hope to turn the color "into a symbol for the value of human life everywhere."
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, "Groups such as Amnesty International USA, MomsRising and Sandy Hook Promise; mayors from Chicago to Miami and Chapel Hill; and members of Congress representing states from Illinois to New York and California will be wearing or promoting orange on Tuesday. Media entities such as HBO and Essence Magazine are involved, with MTV and Motown Records planning to turn their logos orange." (Media Matters is also a partner organization.)
In a May 30 post in its digital magazine, America's 1st Freedom, the National Rifle Association attacked the campaign as "pointless" and said "participating is an easy way of scoring points for being 'socially conscious.'" The magazine also criticized celebrities Julianne Moore, Russell Simmons, and Michael Stipe for participating in National Gun Violence Awareness Day, writing, "It's a shame that quite a few presumably well-meaning celebrities are caught up in a thinly veiled anti-gun stunt orchestrated by Bloomberg and friends." (Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is the founder of Everytown for Gun Safety.)
The genesis of National Gun Violence Awareness Day is the January 29, 2013 shooting death of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton. Pendleton was fatally shot while taking shelter from a rainstorm in a South Side Chicago park, allegedly by gang members who thought the group she was standing with included rival gang members.
The Chicago Tribune called Pendleton's murder "arguably Chicago's most galvanizing killing in recent years" and noted that the shooting captured national attention because "Pendleton, a dimple-faced sophomore drum majorette, had performed just a week earlier at festivities for President Barack Obama's second inauguration." First Lady Michelle Obama attended Pendleton's funeral and has said of the Chicago teenager, "Hadiya Pendleton was me and I was her."
Following Pendleton's death, her friends started Project Orange Tree in March 2013 to honor Pendleton's life and advocate for solutions to prevent future tragedies. As Project Orange Tree past president Nza-Ari Khepra explained to the Sun-Times, "The question then was, 'What's the next step?' We brainstormed. Someone said we should use orange because that's the color hunters wear to alert other hunters they're not the targets."
Everytown and its partners elevated the campaign to the national level by asking the public to wear something orange on June 2, which would have been Pendleton's 18th birthday. As the National Gun Violence Awareness Day website explains, "A couple of years ago, teens on the South Side of Chicago asked their classmates to wear orange in honor of a friend who was shot and killed. Now, we're amplifying their call to action and turning orange into a symbol for the value of human life everywhere."