MILWAUKEE - The first week of February marks "National Gun Violence Survivors Week." As of Feb. 1, Milwaukee has seen 24 homicides in 2022, compared with 11 at this time last year, according to MPD crime data.
"Gun violence isn’t just an urban issue," said Debra Gillespie. "It is a Wisconsinite issue."
The Milwaukee mother knows all too well the pain of losing a loved one to gun violence. Her son, Kirk Bickham, Jr., was shot and killed in 2003 outside Elvin's Ice House.
"We need our legislators to pass responsible gun laws," said Gillespie.
She joined with several leaders and groups against gun violence in Milwaukee on Tuesday, the start of National Gun Violence Survivors Week.
"Residents in the city of Milwaukee deserve to feel safe, and too many of them are able to illegally obtain guns and too many are resulting in conflicts with bullets," said Acting Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson.
National Gun Violence Survivors Week is meant to honor and remember those impacted by gun violence. Survivor advocates are also pushing for gun violence prevention policies and stricter gun purchasing laws.
"As we stand with survivors near and far, our hearts are heavy but our commitment to change and prevention is unwavering," said Heidi Rose, Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort.
MPD crime stats show homicides up 118% as we begin the second month of 2022, and the Milwaukee County medical examiner says the county is on pace for 312 homicides this year.
"This is why we amplify the voices of survivors – because it hurts, and we want people to connect with our pain," said Jenevia Blanks, Milwaukee Moms Demand Action.
Some policies gun violence prevention groups are calling for are background check requirements for all gun sales, and ensuring that protections for domestic violence victims are enforced.