Giffords, the gun violence prevention organization founded by former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, unveiled a Gun Violence Memorial on Independence Mall in Philadelphia honoring the lives lost to gun violence in Pennsylvania each year.
The memorial, which was open to the public through Thursday, consisted of 1,700 vases filled with flowers to represent the 1,700 Pennsylvanians lost to gun violence in 2020 — a 10% increase over 2019.
The Philadelphia Gun Violence Memorial is an offshoot of the national Gun Violence Memorial that Giffords erected on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in April. This national memorial featured 40,000 flowers for the 40,000 lives that are lost to the gun violence epidemic annually, and created an opportunity for political leaders and tourists alike to pause and reflect on the human toll exacted by gun violence.
Giffords partnered with EMIR Healing Center, CeaseFire PA, and South Pittsburgh Coalition for Peace on the memorial installation in Philadelphia.
Upon the memorial’s opening, Giffords, Sen. Bob Casey, Giffords Executive Director Peter Ambler, and EMIR Healing Center Co-founder Chantay Love-Mason highlighted the need for sustainable solutions to gun violence, including trauma-informed policy considerations, partnerships, funding and resources for community and hospital-based violence prevention and intervention programs:
Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords
“It’s tragic, yet poignant, to see 1,700 vases representing 1,700 lives stolen from Pennsylvanians last year. For centuries, the United States has sought to live up to lofty ideals, to become a country that not only promises, but actually delivers, liberty and justice for all. Tragically, 40,000 American lives lost to gun violence each year is not what liberty and justice for all looks like.
“Pennsylvanians, and all Americans, have a right to a future free from gun violence. Our elected officials have a duty to protect us — not the profits of gun manufacturers. I’m grateful to leaders like Senator Casey who are courageously fighting to save lives, and to our partners at EMIR (Every Murder Is Real) Healing Center, CeaseFire PA, and South Pittsburgh Coalition for Peace for doing the difficult, often thankless work of curbing violence day in and day out. Together, we can, and we must, turn the tide on the gun violence epidemic.”
Giffords Executive Director Peter Ambler
“For far too long, the gun lobby has downplayed or outright ignored the cost of gun violence on communities and families. It’s impossible to ignore 1,700 vases laid out one after the other, each one representing an individual whose hopes and dreams were cut short because of a bullet from a gun. The people of Pennsylvania deserve better. Americans deserve better. We’re urging our nation’s politicians to listen to the survivors, doctors, responsible gun owners, and so many more who know that strong gun laws and investments in community-led violence intervention strategies save lives. There is a way out of this crisis, but it requires our leaders to do their jobs, show some courage, and lead.”
Sen. Bob Casey
“Far too often, we mourn the victims of gun violence after a mass shooting without expressing the same outrage at the daily gun violence disproportionately plaguing communities that have been historically marginalized. Philadelphia is a city that knows the pain and horror of community gun violence all too well, and I am grateful to Rep. Gabby Giffords and Giffords for bringing the Gun Violence Memorial here in addition to their work fighting gun violence across the country. Gun violence is a public health epidemic that has permeated our schools, homes, and even places of worship. These 1,700 vases represent the number of Pennsylvanians who died from this epidemic last year and remind us just how pervasive a crisis it is. May this memorial inspire and spur us to act, save lives, and prevent future gun violence.”