Faith-based, anti-gun violence group Heeding God’s Call launched their “T-Shirt Memorial to the Lost” two months ago for victims of gun violence in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. When the project first began, group members placed 140 t-shirts for each of the lives gun violence has claimed in the county between 2009 and now on the front lawn of Ohev Shalom Synagogue in tombstone fashion. Gun violence continues to claim more and more lives in the community, forcing the project to add nine more people to its memorial after recent incidents of violence.
“It brings home the human cost of gun violence in our midst,” said Fran Stier, who coordinated the installation.
The gun violence plaguing Delaware County is the result of a number of different issues, including turf wars, domestic violence, the illegal drug trade, amongst many other motives. Between January 10 and August 11, Delaware County has seen 35 homicides, 25 of which were the products of gun violence.
“We’re not fully current,” Stier said. “This has been a terrible year.”
The members of Heeding God’s Call are protesting what they say is the well developed illegal gun trade, which has been facilitated through criminal entrepreneurs, drug traffickers, unethical gun dealers, and the straw buyers who stand in and make bulk purchases.
“Straw purchases put guns into the hands of felons, domestic abusers, kids too young to know what they’re doing,” explained Stier.
Besides the public memorializing display, the group also gets local gun dealers to sign their “Responsible Firearms Retailer Partnership” Code of Conduct, which asks that the stores videotape point of sales, computerize gun trace logs, conduct thorough criminal background checks, and to accept only federal or state picture IDs.
“It’s not really the t-shirt that gets the message across, its the actual design on the shirt. A quality design and the choice of right colors catches eyes,” says Eric Uzelac, President of The Shirt Printer. “An effective design makes you want to look at the shirt and learn more about what is on it, which is a great way to bring attention to things.”
“Reducing straw purchases won’t stop all homicides — no one thing will, but the rabbis of the Talmud teach us that even when it is not given to us to complete an important work, we are still not free to stop,” Stier explained. “We need to do as much as we can.”