'Guns can be a contentious issue,' but they hope to honor victims while promoting safety

Bellingham Fire Department shows off its Ladder 6

A look at Bellingham Fire Department's Ladder 6, with a 105-foot aerial ladder and special tools for search and rescue operations.
Up Next
A look at Bellingham Fire Department's Ladder 6, with a 105-foot aerial ladder and special tools for search and rescue operations.

If you see more people wearing orange this weekend, it could be part of a nationwide effort to promote firearm safety and to honor the victims of gun violence.

Two cities in Whatcom County have recognized the effort. "The focus is to honor the lives of people who've been the victims of gun violence," said Sandi Heinrich, who's with a local group that's part of the statewide chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

Heinrich said it's part of two events — National Gun Violence Awareness Day on Friday and the nationwide Wear Orange Weekend on June 1-3.

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense will staff a booth at the farmers market from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Depot Market Square in Bellingham.

They also plan to participate in rallies Friday afternoon at the Federal Building in Bellingham and on the Sunset Drive bridge over Interstate 5, joined by Students for Action — which organized a February rally at City Hall.

Daylight Properties, which owns the Herald Building, will light the iconic rooftop Herald sign orange as a tribute Friday night.

On Saturday at the market, they'll have literature about gun violence and give away orange balloons that carry the names of people who were the victims of murder, suicide and carelessness.

In addition, the group's Be SMART volunteers will staff a table at safety fair sponsored by Safe Kids from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the parking lot of Regal Cinemas, corner of Barkley Boulevard and Woburn Street.

At the safety fair, they'll distribute practical information about firearm safety.

Free trigger locks are distributed at Yeager's Sporting Goods, 3101 Northwest Ave., and at the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office, 311 Grand Ave.

Locks are provided through the National Shooting Sports Foundation's Project Childsafe, said John Westerfield, manager of Yeager's.

Concerns about gun safety and gun violence have been fueled by the rise in school shootings and other mass killings, especially the one in Parkland, Florida, that sparked a school walkout in Bellingham, two nationwide protests and a separate nationwide school walkout.

Toddlers shot people in the U.S. at a rate of one incident per week, according to a September report in The Washington Post.

Everytown for Gun Safety shows at least 78 documented unintentional shootings by children so far in 2018.

Orange is the chosen color because of the fluorescent "blaze orange" that is the traditional choice of hunting outerwear and is often required by law.

Wear Orange Weekend started after the 2013 slaying of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendelton in Chicago — just a week after she participated in President Obama's second inaugural parade.

Both the city of Ferndale and the city of Bellingham are recognizing the awareness efforts, but with different approaches.

Bellingham issued a proclamation endorsing the event.

Ferndale also expressed its support, marking Saturday as Wear Orange for Gun Safety Day and posting information about gun safety on the city's website, said spokesman Riley Sweeney.

"Guns can be a contentious issue but the city understands that there are opportunities for residents of all viewpoints to work together to help keep people safe," Sweeney said. "That's really where we found common ground."

The subject of firearms remain divisive politically, however, with three statewide petition drives focused on gun rights and gun safety for possible initiatives on the November ballot.

Initiative 1621 would allow concealed firearms in schools, I-1637 would set age limits and I-1639 seeks enhanced background checks, training, waiting periods and storage requirements for firearms.

Meanwhile, both gun-rights advocates and those who seek greater regulation of firearms agree that gun safety is a paramount concern.

"We're not anti-gun, we're not anti-Second Amendment," said Moms Demand Action volunteer David Crosby of Bellingham. "We're just trying to do something about gun violence."

Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and its online partner Healthychildren.org recommend three steps for those who own firearms:

1. Keep the gun unloaded and locked.

2. Store ammunition in a different place.

3. Hide the keys.

Read about the National Rifle Association's recommendations for firearm storage here.

Project Childsafe also makes these suggestions for keeping guns out of the hands of children.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty
Related stories from Bellingham Herald