Approximately 40,000 Americans are killed annually in gun-related deaths. The Centers for Disease Control reports a 48-percent increase in firearm-related deaths in Florida over the last 15-years, alone. And on National Gun Violence Awareness Day, people in South Florida are doing more than just talking about the damaging effects of gun violence. They’re taking action.
”I’m no longer sad about losing a child. I’m angry,” said Susan Kennedy, founder of the nonprofit Bullets4Life. ”Donate a bullet - save a life.”
Kennedy has collected 5,000 bullets - and counting, from high crime areas and created a nonprofit out of it. She sends a free bracelet with a message inside to families impacted by guns and sells the others. She hopes it’s reducing the death rate.
”You could be thinking about suicide, you could be thinking about an altercation, retaliation - and we have gotten all those bullets off the streets,” she said. “Every bullet that we’ve got has told a story behind it.”
Last year, Omorose Butler received a Bullets4Life bracelet after her 17-year-old son Mendell Butler-Lebel was killed by gunfire on July 2, 2018 in Miramar, Florida. An arrest has yet to be made. His mother says it’s a circumstance that can happen to anyone.
“I want people to get out of the delusion that they’re in a safe area,” said Butler. “Nowhere is safe. Children aren’t safe in their schools, their homes - they aren’t safe to walk to the corner stores within their communities. So time to get involved is now before something like this strikes your family.”
On Thursday night, Kennedy visited other mom’s who shared similar stories of loss in Riviera Beach during a pre-meeting for National Gun Violence Awareness Day organized by county members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. That’s where she met Sarah Phillips, a South Palm Beach County chapter member and this year’s “wear orange” team lead.
“I wear the bullet bracelet just to remind me to keep going. That’s one of the slogans of Moms Demand Action. We keep going and we show up,” said Phillips.
She also says the national level of violence should connect more members of the general public.
”I personally have been affected by gun violence so many times. And I am a middle class, college educated, white girl who's living in the suburbs,” said Phillips. “So if it can happen to me - it can happen to anyone.”
On Friday Phillips visited the Boca Raton Community Park with her family - all wearing orange a color associated with the gun violence prevention movement - prepping for a Saturday morning community service gardening project to honor those killed by gunfire.
Orange-colored plants will be planted. And a plaque will also be dedicated at the park in memory of the 17 people who died during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and the thousands of others killed by gun violence each year. Volunteers will garden and lay mulch from 8 a.m. until 10 a.m.
“Now is the time to get involved.,” added Phillips.