The candles are lit and protected from the breeze at the candlelight vigil on Indian Rocks Beach to remember the victims of gun violence in the past 9 months.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – On a beautiful Florida evening, with the sun setting in the Gulf and a breeze keeping the heat at bay, three dozen people determined to make a change in gun laws in the United States gathered on the beach off 25th Avenue in Indian Rocks Beach.
On Sept. 14 Citizens for Responsible Gun Laws met to hold a candlelight vigil for the victims of gun violence, beginning with the 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary school, in Newtown, Conn., nine months ago, and including more than 8,000 deaths by shooting since then.
Elizabeth and Rod Snedeker of Largo organized the event and say they want to add their voices to others across the country that are speaking out for better background checks and more responsible gun laws.
“After it happened I just wondered what could be done to help this year. It was so devastating,” said Elizabeth Snedeker. “What we are saying to the survivors is that we want to share your pain and your grief. I have four children and I can’t imagine losing even one of them. It boggles the mind that this could even happen.”
Snedeker said the gun violence all happens because our gun laws are not responsible.
“We need to ban assault weapons,” she said. “Our system of background checks is weak. Change has to come from our legislators.”
The group assembled at the vigil agreed with her, although some wondered if things could ever change. Seminole resident Chuck Blodgette and his wife Bernie decided to attend the vigil to see if change was possible.
“There are only a few people here and you wonder what kind of difference we can make,” said Blodgette. “But something might sprout up, who knows what.”
Nearby IRB resident Patti Muneio was sitting in the sand waiting for the event to begin. She was somewhat more hopeful that things would change.
“I think we need to show that we care about our kids and security,” she said. “I’m not sure about changing the gun control laws, but we need to teach better gun control. This is not the Wild West, I’m glad we’re doing this.”
Rod Snedeker spoke to the gathering and told them that they were joining a group of over 100 organizations that have sprung up since the Newtown tragedy.
“We are not alone. I called Newtown officials and discovered that the Newtown Alliance was formed to
promote responsible gun laws. They have formed a coalition with groups all over the country, over 100 of them. They have already been to Washington to lobby legislators.”
IRB Commissioner Cookie Kennedy was the guest speaker and she said it was going to take determination to make a difference.
“My parents always taught me never to give up on what you believe,” she said. “That’s the way I was raised and I admire you for not giving up on this cause. We can’t do it alone; it really does take a village.”
Kennedy said in order to affect change people must be committed to the cause and to what matters most to them in life.
“A tragedy such as Newtown as a ripple effect,” she said. “Remember that 6-year-old boy who played dead so he wouldn’t be killed. Imagine what he was thinking. Imagine the horror the first responders faced when they got to the school, they will never forget it. And the children who will never feel safe in their school ever again.”
Kennedy concluded by quoting the Dalai Lama.
“He said tragedy should be visualized as a source of strength.”
Even as those hundreds of sunbathers and others were oblivious to what was going on behind them, Elizabeth Snedeker was positive that their gathering would make a difference.
“We feel what we are doing is a step toward changing the attitude regarding gun laws,” she said. “The attitude we have now is from the old West. We changed the attitude with cigarettes, we changed it with alcohol and we need to do it with guns.”
Then, with her grandchildren Erin and Wesley Snedeker singing and playing in the background, the candles were lit and a moment of silence observed for the more than 8,000 victims of gun violence in the United States in the past nine months.