Dozens in Rockford walk to end gun violence

Published: Jun. 4, 2023 at 11:49 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - 15 people in Rockford were victims of homicide in 2022 according to the Rockford police department.

To reduce that number to zero, dozens of community members walk to end gun violence Sunday afternoon at Trinity Lutheran Church in Rockford.

Even though there is an assault weapons ban in Illinois, some people at Sunday’s event say that is not enough to end gun violence and that this walk is an important step towards creating a safer stateline.

“After the shooting scare at the fair yesterday with my grandchildren, I just know I needed to get involved.”

Anita Smith is one of around four dozen people who walked to end gun violence in Rockford Sunday. She says this event hits close to home.

“Every time I hear about a shooting about someone killed in Rockford it’s a bullet to my heart.”

Her son Jaz Smith was 29 years old when he was shot and killed two years ago while hanging out with friends.

“I was in denial. There are shootings all over the city and you really don’t believe it until it affects your family.”

Anita says she walks in honor of Jaz and the hundreds of others nationwide who are killed or injured daily by gun violence.

“When I wake up starts all over again. I hope to get better. I am getting better. But I don’t think that pain will ever go away. I miss my baby boy every day.”

The Rockford walk is one of several going on this weekend nationwide to remember Hadiya Pendleton, who was shot and killed in Chicago more than 10 years ago.

Moms Demand Action is one of the groups that hosted the walk. Jessica Green with the organization says the walk is also personal to her.

“I think about the fact that I’m a student, and a lot of these mass shootings have been happening at schools and universities. And a lot of those victims are unfortunately people my age and younger,” says Green. “This isn’t just the issue of people here. It’s the issue of everybody that lives in this country.”

Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara says the city will start a new program later this month that involves what he calls gun violence interventionists going to every single shooting that takes place within the hour that it happened. They will offer 24/7 support to the impacted families and help to prevent any retaliation.

McNamara says the city will also open a community healing center at the Boys and Girls Club for the young people who are impacted by trauma due to gun violence.