By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Last week, Pastor Willie Davis of Invisible Reality Ministries officiated the funeral and burial of a young man who lost his life to gun violence. Davis said at the end of his sermon he noted that Bible says it is better to go to a funeral than a party because at funerals people take life seriously.
Davis shared this story during a signing ceremony at City Hall, 200 E. Wells St., on Wednesday, Nov. 10. During the event, Mayor Tom Barrett signed a resolution, which approved Milwaukee’s participation in the Gun Safety Coalition or the Gun Safety Consortium, a national group advocates for violence reduction through gun safety.
Common Ground, of which Davis is a member, was one of the leading forces behind the Common Council’s efforts to join this coalition. Common Ground, which began in 2008, is a nonpartisan group which addresses various issues through creative solutions. The group consists of faith organizations such as Invisible Reality Ministries, 3421 N. 35th St.
Recently, Common Ground has taken to addressing gun violence. The group brought the Gun Safety Coalition to the attention of the Common Council and the mayor.
“In our fight against violence in the city and in our efforts to make the city safer one of the most important allies we have is the faith community,” Barrett said. “Members of the faith community often times are far more effective than local government or any level of government in connecting with people and reaching people where they are.”
The faith ministries are there when people need them most, he said.
Barrett, who receives notifications from the police department when a shooting takes place, said that sometimes the cause is anger, drugs or alcohol, but sometimes it is an unauthorized individual who got a hold of a gun.
He explained that one of the reasons Milwaukee is joining the consortium is to advance gun safety in the city. In the past, the city has worked with Master Lock to distribute gun locks.
“The way we can add to the work of this consortium is to purchase, test and report on new firearm safety devices and technology,” Barrett said. “One reason I support this resolution is because we need to continue to innovate and implement the best new ideas that are available. Ideas that can make our city safer.”
Pastor Rob Ater of Immanuel Presbyterian Church, 1100 N. Astor St., demonstrated the use a new gun lock. Conventional gun locks and safes are considered too slow or unwieldy in an emergency, he said.
Using a fake gun, Ater showed how gun owners can use an identilock, which utilizes fingerprint technology. Individuals simply tap their finger on the scanner and slide the lock off.
“We know that fewer than half of gun owners consistently secure their firearms, and the consequences are deadly,” he said. “Every day guns are stolen from homes, vehicles and businesses. Most of these guns enter trafficking pipelines.”
These guns are used in accidental shootings and violent crimes, Ater said.
“Many of these crimes and deaths are preventable,” he said.
Arnitta Holliman the director of the Office of Violence Prevention said that the office has worked to distribute over 9,000 gun locks along with Milwaukee County and the Milwaukee Police Department since the start of this year to date.
Davis said Milwaukee can no longer ignore social policy or public policy that will implement real change when it comes to reducing unsecured firearms, suicide and deaths by gun violence.
“My prayer and hope is that this event for Milwaukee is that this becomes the bellwether moment,” Davis said. “Because we represent still a disease, an epidemic that inflicts suffering, degradation, death, chaos in our neighborhoods and in our communities.”