Public Vigil on Sunday — Anniversary of Newtown

Partners from the Movement for a Culture of Peace pray at the Memorial to the Lost after installing it on Saturday, Dec. 6.

Vigil on Dec. 14 to Connect the Dots Between Newtown and Wilmington

A public vigil will be held from noon until 2:00 on Sunday, Dec. 14, at the corner of Whitby Road and Concord Pike, connecting the dots between Newtown, Conn., and Wilmington. In the two years since 28 lives were lost in Newtown, 41 residents of Wilmington have become homicide victims—all but a few killed by guns.

The high-visibility corner is the site of the Memorial to the Lost, a symbolic T-shirt memorial to the victims of gun violence and other forms of homicide in Wilmington. The memorial was installed on Dec. 6 by members of First Unitarian Church and their partners from the Movement for a Culture of Peace, including DeCAGV.

Members of the church will dedicate the memorial during Sunday’s worship service at 10:30 a.m. All are welcome to attend the service.

The two-hour vigil will begin at noon along Concord Pike. Its purpose to bring greater attention to the ongoing carnage in Wilmington, which this year has tied an all-time record for homicides (27) set in 2010. All are welcome to participate—even if you can’t stay for the full duration of the vigil. Bring signs or banners if you have them.

The Newtown Action Alliance is organizing events in all 50 states to commemorate the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre—and this is Delaware’s chance to be part of that national movement.

The Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence supports this action and urges you to attend. The event is listed on DeCAGV’s Facebook page. Give us a like!

Police Chief at New Jim Crow Meeting Dec. 1

Discussions of justice system continue on Dec. 1 at Mother African Union Church

Wilmington Police Chief Bobby Cummings
Wilmington Police Chief Bobby Cummings

The Coalition to Dismantle the New Jim Crow will have Wilmington Chief of Police Bobby Cummings as its guest on Monday, Dec. 1, at 6:00 pm at Mother African Union Church, 812 N. Franklin St. in Wilmington. Chief Cummings will speak about policing in the city and take questions from the audience.

“We have had many productive discussions with state officials and law enforcement officers from New Castle County and look forward to hearing from Chief Cummings,” says Joan Priest, a member of First Unitarian and a leader of the coalition.

Chuck Singleton, co-leader of the coalition, recently joined the board of DeCAGV.

What is “The New Jim Crow?” And what is this Coalition?

New Jim Crow bookAccording to Rev. Paula Maiorano, the New Jim Crow is the latest structural form of racism in the U.S. The term was coined by civil rights attorney and author Michelle Alexander in her 2010 book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

Slavery and Jim Crow were earlier versions. Mass incarceration disproportionately directed to African American males with the War on Drugs used as the delivery vehicle. The outcome has decimated families and urban neighborhoods.

The Coalition was formed to address this structural racism and bring about change. It began several years ago with an interracial study group that read and discussed Alexander’s book. The study group’s meetings alternated between Mother African Union Church and First Unitarian. It has grown into a broad coalition that seeks reforms across the criminal justice system.

The Dec. 1 meeting is free and open to all. Meetings on the first Monday of every month continue to alternate between the two churches. Last month’s meeting drew more than 40 participants.

Jay Leno: Thanks for Listening

In response to petition, Leno cancels appearance at gun industry trade show.

wikimedia commons
wikimedia commons

The Newtown Action Alliance, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, and Campaign to Unload have applauded comedian Jay Leno’s decision to cancel his appearance at the 2015 Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show), an annual event sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for the gun industry. Leno’s cancellation comes just hours after the three gun violence prevention groups had launched a petition calling on him to take this action.

Leno personally called Po Murray, the chairman of Newtown Action Alliance, to inform her of the cancellation. He said he was unaware that the NSSF was a pro-gun lobbying group based in Newtown, Connecticut—the site of a tragic mass shooting in December 2012 that claimed the lives of six adults and 20 children ages 6-7. As Leno told Mother Jones magazine in separate remarks, “I understand it’s Newtown, and of course I get it. It’s just, sometimes, mistakes get made.”

“I’m not at all surprised that Jay didn’t understand that the NSSF is part of the gun lobby,” said Murray. “Before the Sandy Hook shootings, I had no idea they existed, and they’re right here in my cimage001ommunity! I am thrilled that Jay changed his mind once he had full information. It is so appreciated by those of us in Newtown.”

Jennifer Fiore, the executive director of the Campaign to Unload, added, “I’m grateful that Jay has seen the NSSF for what it really is: a corporate lobbying group that puts money over morality, no matter how many families are destroyed by its products.”

“We are sincerely grateful to Mr. Leno for making this decision so quickly after it was brought to his attention,” said Josh Horwitz, the executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. “It shows that he cares about all the Americans whose lives have been turned upside down by gun violence. And that speaks to the man’s character.”

Vigil of Mourning and Remembrance

Since the Sandy Hook shooting, more than 60,000 Americans have died from gun violence. To commemorate the second anniversary of that tragic event, a vigil of mourning and remembrance will take place at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, December 11, 2014.

George Higgins, acting director of the Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence, will travel to Washington for the vigil. To join him, email For more information about the vigil, visit


Violence in Wilmington: Guns at the Center

firearm-409000_1280City ranks third in violent crime among those of comparable size.

According to the Wilmington News-Journal’s recently published study of FBI crime data, during 2013, Wilmington, Delaware, ranked third in violence among 450 cities of comparable size. Only two cities of Wilmington’s size—Saginaw and Flint Michigan—reported more violent crime. Here’s what News-Journal reporters Cris Barrish and Esteban Parra reported on Nov. 13:

Wilmington’s status among about 750 cities with populations of more than 50,000 also got worse in 2013. The city ranked eighth in 2012 but last year it rose to fifth – surpassed in violent crime only by Detroit and the two smaller Michigan municipalities, plus Oakland, California, and Memphis, Tennessee.

The statistics were worse in Wilmington than two larger neighbors with a long-standing reputation as high-crime cities – Baltimore, which ranked 12th among cities with at least 50,000 residents, and Philadelphia at 34th.

The bureau’s latest annual report shows that overall violence did decrease in Wilmington, from 1,703 violent crimes per 100,000 to 1,624 per 100,000 residents. The decrease, however, was not enough to give Wilmington a better national ranking.

Gun crime is a major factor in these statistics.

Among cities of comparable size, Wilmington ranked second in robberies, fourth in aggravated assault, and seventh in homicides. Robbery is a “key component of the FBI’s violent crime rate,” the News-Journal reported. And most shootings that do not result in the victim’s death are classified as aggravated assault.

During 2013, 154 people were shot in Delaware’s largest city. Eighteen died. To date in 2014, Wilmington has seen 25 homicides, 21 of which involved guns. The city’s worst year for homicides is 27, set in 2010.

In October, Mayor Dennis Williams—a former city detective—announced the formation of a homicide uniting the Wilmington Police Department. The announcement came after significant public pressure to make arrests in the city’s homicides. Of 25 such crimes this year, there have been just five arrests. Last week, again according to the News-Journal, the homicide unit made its first arrest in a bicycle robbery that resulted in a shooting death of 57-year-old Donald Smith.

No Surgeon General in the Ebola Fight?

Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control, leaves a White House news conference.

Blame the Gun Lobby.

In recent months, the public face of the U.S. government’s response to the Ebola epidemic has been Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control.

Writing in Health Affairs, J. Stephen Morrison calls Frieden “invaluable,” reporting that “though he may have erred on occasion, [Frieden’s] statements to the American public were overwhelmingly lucid, consistent, powerful, and closely echoed by the President and other senior officials.”

Although it makes sense that the director of the CDC should be out front in talking about the epidemic, there is powerful voice missing from the public discussion: the Surgeon General of the United States. The fact is that, since July 2013, the United States has not had a Surgeon General.

Why? The nomination of Dr. Vivek Murthy for that position has been held up by the gun lobby. That’s right: The NRA and its allies have opposed confirmation of a well-qualified public health expert to the position because they think he might want to frame gun violence as a public health issue.

Writing in The Nation, Zoë Carpenter points out that:

This isn’t the first time the NRA has held up a nominee: the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives went without a director for seven years because of opposition from the gun lobby. But never before has the group set itself so strongly against a surgeon general nominee. So why now? The NRA said Murthy’s ‘blatant activism on behalf of gun control’ attracted their attention.

But the gun lobby’s campaign against Murthy isn’t really about his record, or him at all. His positions on guns are hardly radical or even activist and his views are consistent with those of the majority of Americans. Polling indicates that the public is far more supportive of new gun control laws than members of Congress or, certainly, the NRA.

Furthermore, Murthy’s views represent a consensus among medical professionals that gun violence is a major public health issue. Gun violence, including suicide, kills some 30,000 Americans every year, about the same number as car accidents. Cars are highly regulated for health and safety; guns, barely. Accordingly, the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, among many others, have called for stronger gun safety laws. It would be surprising if, as a doctor, Murthy did not have concerns about gun violence and the strength of current regulations.

With public health professionals engaging more forcefully on the gun issue, the NRA has a pressing interest in muting their calls for stronger policy. Really, the campaign against Murthy is the continuation of a longstanding effort to make discussion of gun violence taboo. For years the NRA has worked to bury information about gun violence and its public health implications.

 Take Action

Delaware Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons have already expressed support for Dr. Murthy’s nomination. But in the wake of the mid-term elections, there’s a strong possibility that the NRA will push for its members to make anti-Murthy calls to the Senate. Members of DeCAGV are urged to do two things:

  1. Call or send email to Senators Carper and Coons to thank them for their support of Vivek Murthy and for a sensible public-health approach to gun violence. Their contact information is here.
  2. Stand with Vivek Murthy. Sign the national petition.
  3. Learn more about the epidemic of violence at the National Physicians Network.