John Sonin leads a rally at the Capitol for National Gun Violence Awareness Day on Friday, June 7, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

John Sonin leads a rally at the Capitol for National Gun Violence Awareness Day on Friday, June 7, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Juneau ralliers join nationwide ‘Wear Orange Day’ to advocate for gun sense

Wear Orange Day event calls attention to Alaska gun violence rates

About 30 orange-clad Juneauites began their weekend Friday by making a statement.

As part of Wear Orange Weekend, people around the country take to the street in the name of sensible gun ownership, and the group of Juneau residents stood on the steps of the Alaska State Capitol to make their point.

Multiple people spoke during the rally, including Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kale junior Katie McKenna, who read off statistics about how many people around the country have died by gun violence this year alone.

“The statistics are horrifying, and represent the harsh reality of what my generation has grown up with,” McKenna said. “We are all too familiar with lockdowns and ALICE drills, and they’re almost as predictable as tying our shoes.”

People gather at the Capitol for National Gun Violence Awareness Day rally on Friday, June 7, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

People gather at the Capitol for National Gun Violence Awareness Day rally on Friday, June 7, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

ALICE is a training program for schools and other organizations to be prepared for active shooter situations.

The issue of gun violence is especially prevalent in Alaska. In 2017, Alaska had the highest rate of deaths by firearm, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One of the main topics on the Capitol steps Friday was the state’s high rates of suicide as well. In 2017, Alaska had the second-highest rate of deaths by suicide, trailing only Montana, according to CDC statistics.

The events are organized by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America’s Alaska chapter. John Sonin, the Juneau man who has organized the Wear Orange Day the past four years, said prior to the rally that this rally is not advocating for guns to be taken away from people, but it’s more to ask politicians to institute responsible gun regulations.

John Sonin ties up a sign at the Capitol for National Gun Violence Awareness Day rally on Friday, June 7, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

John Sonin ties up a sign at the Capitol for National Gun Violence Awareness Day rally on Friday, June 7, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Sonin pointed out that some people and organizations (namely the National Rifle Association) paint anyone protesting for gun regulations as opposing the Second Amendment.

“That’s malarkey,” Sonin said. “We’re not anti-Second Amendment.”

Nanci Spear, who said gun violence is the No. 1 political issue in her mind, was attending her first Wear Orange event Friday.

“It’s just become ridiculous,” Spear said. “People are dying, our children are dying. It’s got to turn around.”


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


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