About 80 Fort Wayne residents on Saturday morning added their voices to the chorus of Americans demanding government action on gun deaths.
The Fort Wayne chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America rallied outside the Allen County Courthouse at 10 a.m.
The event was one of demonstrations nationwide sponsored by the group this weekend dubbed “Recess Rallies,” aimed at federal legislators on summer break.
During the rally, local leaders called for stronger background checks on gun purchases, including private sales where checks are currently not required, and a federal red-flag law.
Red flag laws, already in use in several states, including Indiana, allow law enforcement to confiscate the gun following a sworn statements that someone in possession of a gun is a danger to themselves or others. A court hearing then takes place to decide when or whether to give back the weapon.
The local group also wants the U.S. Senate to take up two gun-safety bills passed by the House but remaining unheard in the Senate for more than 100 days, said Erica Jamison of Huntertown, the rally's co-leader.
She said the group would meet at 7 p.m. Aug. 26 at 200 E. Main St. to plan their next steps.
During the rally, the Rev. Kathleen Haller, associate pastor of Trinity English Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, paid tribute to those who died in recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton by reading their names.
Haller also read names of 11 people who died in gun homicides this year in Fort Wayne.
“It's important for us not only the think and pray but also to act,” she told participants, many wearing Moms Demand Action's signature red T-shirts.
The group also heard from Fort Wayne City Councilman Geoff Paddock, D-5th, who said he would sponsor a resolution on guns in coming weeks.
Paddock recalled he spoke out against gun deaths 18 months ago after the mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and the issue has become more urgent.
“We have to find common ground,” he said.
Another speaker, Marty Lemert of Fort Wayne, urged banning assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines, saying they were designed for warfare.
“No one needs a weapon like the one a man in Dayton used who killed nine people and injured dozens in less than a minute,” she said. “No citizen needs firepower like that.”
Retired United Methodist pastor Steve Cain of Fort Wayne said one of his friends, Mike Pitchford, 59, died by a bullet in 2016. Pitchford was shot in the head at close range in his car by someone wielding a .22-caliber handgun, Cain said.
“Mass shootings are but the tip of the iceberg ... . Access is an issue,” Cain said. While the United States has 5% percent of the world's population, it has 46% of the world's guns – and now has more than 100 homicides a day.
“We're at war with ourselves,” Cain said.