Naperville vigil to remember gun violence victims 7 years after Sandy Hook

Updated 12/10/2019 10:00 AM

A vigil in Naperville to remember lives lost to gun violence is one of at least four in the suburbs and dozens across the country planned to mark the seven years since the deadly school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

Those planning the Naperville event -- members of the local chapter of the advocacy group Moms Demand Action -- are careful with their words about the time that has passed since the Sandy Hook shooting. It's not an anniversary they're observing with their vigil, set for 7 p.m. Friday at First Congregational United Church of Christ, 25 E Benton Ave. "Anniversary" is too celebratory, Moms Demand Action volunteer Holly Blastic said.


"This is definitely the opposite," she said. "It's more a remembrance."

The Naperville ceremony is part of the National Vigil to End Gun Violence, which takes place each December around the time of the Sandy Hook shootings, in which 20 children and six adults were shot to death at an elementary school by a shooter who also killed his mother and took his own life.

Groups across the country host vigils on different days, and some in the suburbs already have taken place, including one Dec. 7 in Evanston. Another is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10, at First United Methodist Church at 1903 Euclid Ave. in Arlington Heights.

Naperville's comes next in the region, followed by an event Sunday in Oak Park. Vigils in Illinois also are planned for Bloomington, Champaign, Chicago and Peoria.

"We will continue to honor with action as we work to end this gun violence epidemic once and for all," Leslie Ruffing, volunteer leader of Moms Demand Action West Suburban-Naperville chapter, said in a news release.

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Advocates are encouraged about state legislative action to address the causes they support, Blastic said, especially after Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the Combating Illegal Gun Trafficking Act in January. The law put in place what Moms Demand Action calls "significant trafficking prevention measures" that advocacy groups in the Illinois Gun Violence Prevention Coalition had sought for years.

But the law can't bring back anyone who has been killed by a shooting.

"It's just touching too many families," Blastic said.

That's why the vigil Friday evening is a free, public, interfaith gathering.

"All are welcome. If you've been touched by gun violence, we are here," she said. "It's a good time to remember and have others lift you up in your grief."

Speakers Friday are scheduled to include Shelly Sandstrom of Moms Demand Action, Shalini Gupta of United for Peace, the Rev. Mark Winters of First Congregational United Church of Christ, and Alicia Schemel, an Everytown survivor fellow with the Everytown for Gun Safety organization.

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