Gun violence in Milwaukee; advocates speak out

Ten people have died by homicide in Milwaukee so far in 2023, and a 15-year-old girl was shot and sent to the hospital with life-threatening injuries Thursday night, Feb. 2.

It's not just about the numbers – most important are the names behind them. Mayor Cavalier Johnson proclaimed the city's first National Gun Violence Survivors Week.

"He was a wonderful son. A wonderful son," said Toinette Owens. "To have 11 bullets pass through his body, is just…beyond bizarre."

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A mother's grief never disappears. Owens went to city hall Friday to be a voice for her son, 24-year-old Stefan Owens.

"He’s not a number. Stefan was a young man. He was loved by his family," Owens said.

Stefan Owens

"There’s a ripple effect when violence happens in our community," Mayor Johnson said.

Several organizations working to prevent gun violence joined the conversation Friday – including the Milwaukee Office of Violence Prevention, 414Life, Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort (WAVE), Moms Demand Action and Brady: United Against Gun Violence.

"Every time someone is injured or killed by a gun, an entire community is wounded," said Heidi Johnson with WAVE.

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"Every year, I hang a remembrance tag on my remembrance trees for a life cut short by gun violence," said Jeneva Blanks, group leader with Moms Demand Action.

A few people called for background checks and red flag laws.

"We need your voice, and we need your vote," said Anneliese Dickman with the Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

"The message I convey here today is that a change in our gun laws has to come," Blanks said.

Owens said she wants consequences for shooters – and people who enable them – so other mothers don't have to carry the same brief.

"People need to be held accountable. People need to stop rushing to, ‘Oh, I’m gonna shoot this person,’ everybody turns to guns now," she said. "As long as I’m breathing, I’ll always celebrate my son."

If you want to take action, Mayor Johnson encourages sending messages to elected leaders. He also encourages starting with change at home – especially if you have a relationship with a young person.