BRIGHTON PARK — The impact of the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn. has reverberated across the country, fueling intense debates on gun ownership.
Teenagers in Brighton Park hope their violence-wracked neighborhood isn’t forgotten in that national conversation, so they helped host a candlelight vigil in Kelly Park on Tuesday.
“Twenty-six precious lives were lost to gun violence in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty-seven were shot in BP last year, eight who died,” said Danny Vazquez, a Kelly High School graduate and member of the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council. “We want to end violence in our neighborhood. We believe the solution includes both stronger gun laws and more funding for youth programming to help our youth in school.”
About 125 people, including elected officials, students and community leaders, turned up in the candlelit “peace zone,” across the street from the school, 4136 S. California Ave.
At Tuesday’s rally, Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia spoke out against the National Rifle Association, saying the group “has too much influence in legislative halls across the country including Congress. We have to tell the NRA they cannot do whatever they want.”
Garcia last week introduced legislation requiring gun owners report lost or stolen guns. The ordinance, if passed, would require gun owners to report lost, stolen, sold or otherwise transferred firearms to the Sheriff's Office within 48 hours or face a $1,000 fine.
President Obama has also proposed a number of measures he says would "curb the epidemic of gun violence in this country."
But whatever takes place by state, local and federal lawmakers, the speakers said the threat of violence remains a very real fact of life in Brighton Park.
Maura Ortega, a Kelly High School student, described a Jan. 6 mugging in which his mother was the victim. He said the attackers robbed, then beat her as she exited her car.
“I don’t know what’s worse seeing my mother cry, knowing that this kind of stuff happens in our community or that I thought that she could’ve been killed and I never would’ve seen her again,” he said.